By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — If the Western New York basketball community didn’t know about North Tonawanda sophomore Chris Woodard before Wednesday night, it does now.
Woodard posted another double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing an eye-popping 18 rebounds, while leading all players with five steals. His performance helped lift NT over Lancaster, 66-51, in the AA pre-quarterfinal round of sectional playoffs.
Lumberjacks coach Ryan Mountain had trouble recalling a more dominant playoff performance by an NT basketball player.
“Right now Woodard is playing more like a freshman in college than a sophomore in high school,” he said. “His game tonight was just unbelievable. I’m sure that’s one of the best games ever played in sectionals in North Tonawanda history. I only go back five years but I’ll match that game against any of the greats.”
The Jacks (11-8) led for the majority of the game after a slow start in the first quarter, but the Redskins made a few runs to keep things interesting.
Leading by four points, 25-21, at the break, NT came storming out in the second half led by point guard Nehemiah Stone. The sophomore’s energy generated a quick 9-0 NT run that consisted of a Stone 3-pointer and transition layup in traffic, followed by a pair of assists to teammates Michael Awad and Woodard to give the Jacks a double-digit lead.
Stone finished with 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and senior Ian Gilhousen, who finished with five points, applauded the play of the Jacks’ sophomore tandem — Stone and Woodard.
“They are definitely ahead of where they’re supposed to be,” he said. “Not too many sophomores that play basketball are where they are. They have a great coach and they’re doing amazing. The sky is the limit for them and they’re doing their part to make this team good.”
Lancaster responded with a 11-4 run to close out the third quarter and then pulled to within three in the fourth with about 5 minutes remaining. Joe Piotrowski scored six of his 16 points in the fourth and Woodard, who insisted that Gilhousen take his post season interview in his last home game as a senior, tallied eight of his game-high total in the final quarter, as well.
Woodard said the Jacks wanted to utilize their height against Lancaster.
“We watched them on film and we noticed that they weren’t a very big team,” he said. “We out-worked them on the boards clearly. That was one of our big points that we wanted to execute on.”
The win marked NT’s fourth home sectional win in the last five seasons. The Jacks had 19 assists, 37 total rebounds and shot 11 for 21 from the free throw line in the game. Awad was one of four Jacks to score in double figures, finishing with 11 points.
Mountain said Wednesday’s result is indicative of the way his team has played all season.
“As long as we have a lead we wear you down and win games in the fourth quarter,” he said. “That’s a testament to how hard we work. If anyone knew how hard we work they would have a greater appreciation for what we do.”
The Jacks travel to Niagara Falls to battle the Wolverines (15-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in a AA quarterfinal matchup.Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.