In the nick of time
Buzzer-beater from freshman Woodbury gives GMG comeback win
GARWIN — The ball fell to GMG freshman Jabari Woodbury with less than one second left. There was literally no time to waste. He put it up and the buzzer sounded. The ball caromed off the backboard and in, leaving it up to the officials on the court to decide whether or not Woodbury got the ball in time.
Emphatically, they made the “count it” motion — and GMG had a wild 67-65 win in its season opener.
The Wolverines trailed for most of the first half — 19-16 after the first quarter and 38-31 at halftime — in a fast-paced 16 minutes of action that provided the Wolverines an opportunity to work on their improved ball movement and transition offense.
But according to GMG coach Michael Plett, the Wolverines fell short in two of the three key areas he has been trying to hammer into the team before the season in that first half.
“Our three keys: defense, rebounding and effort,” Plett said. “That was our big emphasis in practice leading up to this game. The first half was great effort, poor rebounding and poor defense. The second half had much better defense, much better rebounding and the effort continued. We just kept fighting the whole way and were able to scratch one out.”
The Wolverines showed a heightened level of defensive rigidity in the third quarter, overcoming a large foul count — eight in the third quarter alone and 21 over the course of the game (Baxter committed just 14 fouls) — to cut the deficit down from seven to two points. The team was led on the other end of the floor by Kooper Gill’s game-high 18 points. Forward Zach Krull had 13 points off the bench, and freshman Austin Vaverka scored 10 in his first start for the Wolverines.
Avery Bryant and Woodbury contributed nine points apiece.
The Wolverines score the first five points of the fourth quarter — a show of their commitment and hard work to meet Plett’s criteria, learn and improve.
“It’s always easier to teach after a win,” Plett said. “Everybody always has a little bit of pep in their step, as opposed to the other way. This is a good floor for us, and we absolutely want to continue to improve as the season goes on.”
The fourth quarter turned into a nail-biting spectacle as GMG held a slim lead over a Baxter team that would not go away. Led by Cody Damman’s 17 points and 14 from Carson Scroggins, Baxter was never more than three points behind the Wolverines. With just five seconds left, it looked like overtime was going to be a certainty. Baxter had two free throws for a chance to tie the game a 65 following a foul by Gill. After Rory Heer hit both for the Bolts, the Wolverines quickly inbounded the ball to Gill. Pulling up from 30ish feet away, Gill’s shot was well off and struck the underside of the backboard.
It fell to Woodbury, who quietly put up nine points and hit a 3-pointer in his first high school action, with less than a second left. The rest is history.
“That’s what you love about freshman,” Plett said. “Those guys, they really hustle and they always find a way of being in the right place at the right time. You can’t really explain it, they just have a knack for the ball. We really stress offensive rebounding, and he knows that.”
GMG will visit Collins-Maxwell Friday night in its second game of the season.
GMG 67, Baxter 65
BAXTER (0-1, 0-1) — Rory Heer 1 5-5 7, Kael Johnston 4 4-4 13, Carson Scroggins 5 1-2 14, Cody Damman 6 3-4 17, Nate McMinamen 3 4-6 10, Cael Shepley 1 0-0 2, Trice Clapper 1 0-2 2. TOTALS 21 17-23 65.
GMG (1-0, 1-0) — Avery Bryant 4 0-2 9, Austin Vaverka 4 2-4 10, Jabari Woodbury 4 0-0 9, Kooper Gill 6 5-6 18, Abe Dieleman 3 0-0 6, Kaleb Gill 0 0-0 0, Zach Krull 6 1-1 13, Brayden Duden 1 0-2 2. TOTALS 28 8-15 67.
BAXTER 19 19 18 9 — 65
GMG 16 15 23 13 — 67
3-Point Goals–Baxter 6 (Scroggins 3, Damman 2, Johnston), GMG 3 (Bryant, Woodbury, Ko. Gill). Team Fouls–Baxter 14, GMG 21. Fouled Out–Damman. Technical Foul–Baxter head coach.