DERBY — Woodland boys’ basketball head coach Tom Hunt said before the season that junior Yahmad Rountree would make a huge difference when he returned to the lineup. Hunt wasn’t kidding. Rountree, in just his second game of the season, poured in a game- and career-high 28 points in a 72-56 rout of Derby Tuesday night.
Twenty-two of Rountree’s 28 points came in the second half, helping the Hawks pull away from the Red Raiders, who stuck around until midway through the third quarter. Derby crept to within three at 30-27 with 5 ½ minutes left in the third, but Woodland put together an 8-0 run, started by an impressive fast-break dunk by Rountree, to gain a 38-27 lead that would never shrink to less than eight the rest of the way.
“The difference between tonight and Friday was that Yahmad had a game under his belt,” Hunt said. “Tonight some of our guys were running with him and not just standing there waiting for him to do something. He had some rebounds off missed shots and got to the rim well.”
Rountree was kept quiet in the first half; he did not score in the first quarter. After senior Bryan Spickle scored Woodland’s first five points of the game, Derby stormed back with a 7-0 run to close the period and claim a 13-11 lead.
The Red Raiders kept their momentum into the second, knocking down a three-pointer to stretch their lead to five with 7:51 left. Woodland rebounded, though, as Rountree began to find his stroke, going on a 14-3 run to head into the half with a 25-19 advantage.
“We’ve had a problem recognizing other teams’ shooters this season,” Hunt said. “I thought we did a nice job at halftime of adjusting to get out on their shooters. You have to give them credit though. They were knocking down some well-defended shots.”
Hunt was pleased by his team’s job of getting good shots, something that Woodland didn’t do in last Friday’s loss at Watertown. In that game, the Hawks shot just 19-of-67 from the field; Tuesday, they were 30-of-64.
“We did a much better job of getting to the rim and not settling for jump shots,” Hunt said. “In the second half, we were able to run our offense a lot and get some good looks. These guys are starting to buy into the fact that if we run through the offense every time down the floor, they’re going to get good shots.”
Throughout Woodland’s second-half dominance, Rountree displayed not only his superior scoring ability but also his impressive passing skills. Numerous times down the floor, the junior drew the defense on drives into the lane before making pretty underneath passes to Spickle (17 points), senior Shaine Thompson (12), or sophomore Ryan Angeloszek (seven).
Now 6-8 overall—two wins shy of the second state tournament berth in team history—Hunt and the Hawks feel that there is more to accomplish.
“We need to keep moving forward,” Hunt said. “We need to find our identity on defense. We finally were able to stay in a defense tonight, and it worked out for us. If we can just find a defense that everybody believes in, that can make us a contender.”
Having Rountree the rest of the way won’t hurt, either.
“It’s great to be back,” Rountree said. “It was pretty tough watching from the side. It’s good to be back out there. It was my second game back, so I guess I got over the fear. From now on, there’s going to be a lot more of what you saw tonight.”