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Woodland routs Oak Ridge to three-peat as BCS Conference Champions

The Woodland girls basketball team poses with the BCS Tri-County Conference Tournament championship plaque after beating Oak Ridge 70-23 last Thursday night at Meadow Heights. Photo by Nick McNeal

Ever since the inception of the BCS Tri-County Conference Tournament in 2021-22, no program has kept the Woodland Cardinals girls basketball team from taking the championship plaque home to Marble Hill.

That trend continued last week when the No. 1 seeded Cardinals won their third-straight conference title with a 47-point, 70-23 win over No. 3 Oak Ridge. In fact, Woodland has beaten each of its opponents by an average of 39.7 points while not allowing any team to score more than 23 in the championship game.

“[Winning conference] means a lot — I love the sport, and I love the environment,” Woodland junior Mallary Barks said. “The girls make it really enjoyable for me, so I can’t wait for next year. I can’t wait for the rest of this season.

“I feel like the games we play beforehand help us get more pumped up because we know how good we are. We recently beat St. Vincent in a 70-point game also, and that was a pretty big win for us. They’re really good and have a lot of shooters, so I feel like beating them kind of led to wanting to prove how good we are.

“People underestimate us a lot — we don’t have a lot of numbers, so I feel like us coming out and proving that we are good means a lot.”

One constant factor for the Cardinals through their dominance has been Mallary Barks. The three-year starter, who is also a standout for Woodland’s volleyball and softball teams, sets the tone on both ends of the court.

Barks led the Cardinals to outscore Oak Ridge 21-9 in the first quarter, where she scored seven of her total 19 points with back-to-back 3-pointers. Mallary also finished with multiple steals throughout the contest, thanks to her constant pressuring of ball handlers and timely deflections.

This was opposite of how Woodland’s game against No. 5 Advance started as the Cardinals only led the Hornets by three points after the second and third quarter. Barks didn’t even play in the second quarter, but she registered six points and filled the stat sheet in the second half to lead Woodland to a 22-point, 44-26 win.

“The bus ride was slow and we were kind of running late [before the Advance game],” Mallary said. “We didn’t have any music, and we were just kind of down. When we got here, none of our shots were falling, so we kind of lost our mentality going into the game. For the championship game, we got a lot more hyped and were a lot more ready.

“I think we underestimated Advance a little bit, so we came out and thought we had it right off the bat — that wasn’t the case. Against Oak Ridge, we came out knowing that we had to actually fight if we wanted to win. We put in a lot more effort and energy.”

Through the next two quarters, Barks was held to just six points as she rotated between playing on the wing and in the post. After her hot start, the Blue Jays decided to guard Mallary heavily with junior Madalyn Schemel and sophomore Kinsley Bogenpohl.

However, this then allowed Barks’ teammate and the other half of Woodland’s dynamic duo freshman Addy Massa to take over the reins scoring wise. Like Barks, Massa hit two 3’s in the first quarter and knocked down two more in the second as she produced 17 points in the first half alone.

“We figured that would happen,” Barks explained. “Playing these bigger teams that know who our shooters are and everything, we expected a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two. We have a plan for that because if I get hot, then Addy tries to get hot. If she does, then they box-and-one her. We just work with whatever we’re given.”

Massa ended up scoring a game-high 25 points with five 3-pointers to outscore Oak Ridge by two points on her own. Barks paced Addy in 3’s with four of her own as she hit two more in the fourth quarter for the Splash Sisters to combine for 44 points and nine treys.

“Addy and I see the court really well together,” Barks said. “We’re on opposite sides of the court most of the time, or we’ll switch back and forth, so we have clicked from the start. We’ve been friends since we were little, so having her be my freshman playing basketball, it’s really fun.”

Scoring a majority of Oak Ridge’s points was junior Reagan Howe with a team-high 10, as sophomores Bogenpohl and Jayleigh Price finished behind her with five and four points, respectively.

Moving ahead, Barks and the 11-5 Cardinals are hoping to win what would be a fourth-straight district championship. Mallary, who has helped Woodland win two of its last three district titles, nearly led Woodland to reach the Class 3 Final Four her freshman campaign after making the state quarterfinals.

“Practices are always a lot tougher right after Christmas break, but it’s when you want to set the tone for how you want to play for the rest of the season,” Barks said. “I’m looking forward to getting better at practice each day and playing tougher teams each day. It really prepares us for districts and maybe even further.”

As far as leading the team goes, Mallary said she doesn’t feel like it’s solely on her to do so despite being a starter for three years now. This is because Barks said she feels like she can rely on her teammates and that it’s not just one person leading the Cardinals. “Each game, somebody takes leadership. If I’m off, Addy can take leadership, or London [Cureton] or Rhodie [Long],” she explained.

Besides their play on the court, another reason why Woodland has won three consecutive conference and district championships is because of the support from its fanbase and community as a whole, Barks noted.

“I feel like our fans are really good to us, and we really do have a loyal pep club,” Mallary said. “They show up to all of our games — a few of them do anyway. I feel like having fans support us the way they do, coaches that coach us the way they do and referees that come out here and referee these games makes it mean a lot to be here in general.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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