By A.J. Atkinson | Correspondent
After securing Woodridge's first win of the season with a 57-48 victory over the Garfield G-Men (2-5, 2-2 PTC), Bulldogs coach Brian Fantone gave all the credit to his players and player adjustments recommended by his assistant coach and JV coach at the start of the fourth quarter.
At the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs (1-5, 1-3 PTC) were struggling under the full-court pressure enforced by the G-Men, which forced 10 Woodridge turnovers and held the Bulldogs to only nine third-quarter points.
Fantone was looking for a spark. His assistant coach, John Godinsky, pitched the idea of putting in junior guard John Harry, who normally only plays JV.
Harry was on the floor to start the fourth and was quite a surprise to Fantone.
"He gave tons of energy, diving and grabbing loose balls," Fantone said. "(Harry) gave us something we didn't expect."
Despite already playing a full JV game, Harry scrapped along with his teammates to shut down any G-Men hopes of a comeback. With a 1:10 left in the game, Harry swiped a steal that led to two points on the opposite end for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs dominated the boards the entire game, but Woodridge JV coach Perry Owens saw room for more. He convinced Fantone to call 6-foot-5 Hunter Niswander off the bench.
The taller rotation helped limit second-chance opportunities for Garfield. Niswander's four rebounds came primarily in the fourth, and he was sent to the line twice when Garfield started fouling immediately in hopes of missed free throws and quick 3-pointers on its end. Niswander hit all four of his free throws, sealing the victory for Woodridge.
"Hunter made all the plays," Fantone said. "He really muscled his way in there, and we really relied on him."
Though the Bulldogs had multiple missed shots, their rebounding held them in the game. Fantone said he knew eventually the shots would start falling.
"We had to have missed 25 shots from four feet away," Fantone said. "But I know in that time we had four offensive rebounds down here in front of our basket. Our shots may not have been going in, but giving up four offensive rebounds is demoralizing to the other team."
Demoralizing it was.
"There's nothing special with rebounding. It's just heart," Garfield coach Andy Olesky said. "Every game it's been something different. Tonight it was rebounding. Tomorrow at practice these kids will be rebounding."
Olesky said he was pleased with Matt Pratt, who led the G-Men with 16 points.
Nelson Perry led the Bulldogs with 16 points.