“We probably played as about as bad of a first half as we played all year,” Woodward coach Anthony Thomas said. “We dug deep but all game I just kept saying we got to keep punching.
“They are a great team. They threw a couple of haymakers at us. We just had to keep fighting. We were finally able to break through in the end.”
Solomon Mangham had eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks for the War Eagles, who trailed by seven points at halftime before extending their winning streak to eight games.
After trailing for much of the first three quarters, Woodward finally drew even again at 34-34 thanks to a 3-pointer by Hicks with 5:18 left.
Williams’ basket almost a minute later gave the War Eagles a 36-34 edge and the lead for good. Mangham added a tip-in to cap the critical 16-2 run, which started late in the third quarter.
“Solomon battled all night,” Thomas said. “He didn’t have his best game offensively but he came up with some big stops down the stretch, some big rebounds and great tip-ins.”
But the Golden Lions would still have a chance to send this rematch into overtime again.
With less than 10 seconds remaining and Woodward ahead by three points, Will Maguire, who made five 3-pointers, got an open look from the arc but his shot rimmed out before Nick Harris corralled the rebound and was fouled.
“It was missed assignment on a switch and he was able to get free and shoot it,” Thomas said. “Luckily for us it didn’t go in.”
However, St. Pius still had a very slight chance with Harris going to the line with half a second left. The 6-foot-9 junior sank the first shot before intentionally missing the second with hopes of a tip-in. But Terry Googer secured the rebound as time expired.
"The first game definitely did wonders for the buildup for this game," Thomas said. "A lot of people pointed at this date on the calendar as a chance to atone for the only region loss. When you talk about St. pius-Woodward, you are talking about a lot of people. It's going to be some good basketball and that's what the fans got."
On Tuesday, the War Eagles visit Towers.