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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Woodlan’s Kadin Gerig drives past Leo’s Sam Waters, left, and Brycee Beer in the second quarter.
ACAC Tournament

Ready for a rematch

Woodlan’s semifinal upset sets up title game with Bluffton

Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Woodlan players celebrate their 71-68 win over Leo in the ACAC semifinals Wednesday at the Coliseum.
Bluffton’s Jackson Lambert shoots over Southern Wells’ Devin Price during the second quarter. The Tigers won 68-48.

It’s a rematch just seven days in the making.

Bluffton and Woodlan will get a quick turnaround matchup after wins Wednesday in the ACAC tournament semifinals at Memorial Coliseum.

The defending tournament champion Tigers beat Southern Wells 68-48, while Woodlan shocked Leo 71-68.

The teams will play in the tournament championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Woodlan (8-5) lost to Bluffton (8-4) 51-38 on Jan. 5, but the Warriors have won two in a row since then over Adams Central and Leo in the ACAC tournament.

“When we play well like we did last night, you wonder if it has any staying power,” Woodlan coach Dave Randall said about the 54-36 first-round win over the Jets on Tuesday. “The kids know now we didn’t just get lucky, we have something going.”

The Warriors got their first win over Leo since 2006 and now have a chance at the school’s first ACAC tournament title since 1997. Bluffton has won four of the last five ACAC tourney titles.

“The worst thing in the world for a coach is to watch that first game when you play the second game,” Bluffton coach Kevin Leising said. “You are watching it, but you are so focused on this game (the ACAC finals).

“We are going to have to do some things differently, but (Woodlan) will be excited to play. But I felt like we played very well last time, and there’s a reason we won so easily – but we will see.”

Against Leo, Kadin Gerig had 23 points for the Warriors, and Jaylin Bennett added 21 points.

“It feels so good to beat Leo,” Bennett said. “We have been their little brother for a long time. They have had such a good program for a while.”

Woodlan had lost the last six times to Leo.

“At one time, this was a rivalry,” Randall said of playing Leo. “But lately, they have been the hammer, and we have been the nail, so this was nice.”

After trailing by double figures in the first half, Leo rallied and led 68-67 with a minute remaining before Gerig hit a three-pointer to give Woodlan a 70-68 advantage with 41 seconds left.

“We have been waiting for this for years,” Gerig said of beating Leo. “It feels great, especially in the Coliseum.”

A.J. Busche led Leo (6-5) with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Adam Davison had 17 points and David Hardin 10 points.

The Warriors made 28 of 54 (52 percent) from the floor, while the Lions were only 25 of 69 (36 percent).

“We didn’t play some super-human effort, but we just played our game,” Randall said. “That’s something we can take forward.”

In the second semifinal, the Tigers beat the Raiders for the second time this season. Back on Dec. 14, Bluffton beat Southern Wells 85-40.

Jackson Lambert had 21 points and Chandler Prible added 12 for the Tigers, while Levi Sherman scored 21 for the Raiders (4-7).

gjones@jg.net

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