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Rematches between teams in the same year always add some intrigue to the high school basketball season.
But when those rematches come six days after the first game in the longest-running conference tournament in the state, the magnitude is intensified.
That was the scenario Thursday night in the semifinals of the 91st ACAC Tournament at Memorial Coliseum, with Woodlan attempting to beat Bluffton for the second time in a week and Adams Central trying to do the same against Garrett.
The night ended with Woodlan making it two straight over the Tigers in a 58-55 victory, while Garrett avenged its loss to the Flying Jets with a 54-49 win.
The outcomes set up a showdown at noon Saturday between the Warriors and the Railroaders.
Garrett has never won the ACAC Tournament and Woodlan is looking for its first title since 1997.
With the quick turnaround between games among the semifinalists, players' emotions ran high.
“We knew (Bluffton) wanted revenge,” Woodlan senior Kadin Gerig said. “But we just really stressed to do what we do. That's play and have fun.”
Gerig had a team-high 16 points in the three-point win. The Tigers made it tough for the Warriors after going on 10-0 run late to get to within one possession.
But Woodlan (6-4) prevailed to mark the program's first two-game win streak against Bluffton (5-6) since the 2000-01 season after knocking off the Tigers in overtime 63-60 last Saturday.
“We just knew we had a very close game last time (against Bluffton),” senior Greg White said. “We wanted to fix our turnovers and play smart.”
There was no repeat of Garrett's 47-40 defeat to Adams Central last Saturday as the Railroaders came up big in the rematch after a slow start.
Garrett (8-2) trailed 18-8 after the first quarter but trimmed the deficit to just two by halftime.
The game remained close until late in the second half when the Railroaders led by three.
Adams Central (5-5) was preparing to go for the tie with 12 seconds left, but turned the ball over. Garrett sealed the game with a pair of free throws to return the favor to the Flying Jets.
“We didn't play as well as we should have (that first game),” said Garrett junior Justin McCoy, who scored 16 points. “We were coming out for revenge … that's what's we got.”
Woodlan not only got satisfaction in beating Bluffton a second time, it also dispatched of the team that has won five of the last six ACAC Tournaments, including last year when the Tigers beat the Warriors in the championship.
“They are a very good team. You have to give Bluffton a lot of credit,” Gerig said. “They are very disciplined with a lot of nice players. It feels good to beat them and finally get to a championship without them there.”
The title game will follow the rematch trend, with Woodlan attempting to beat Garrett after dropping a 58-46 decision to the Railroaders on Dec. 6.
The Warriors sound ready to do just that.
“(Senior Jaylin Bennett) made the comment that Leo's been the big brother (in the ACAC), but we feel like the big brother now,” Gerig said. “Hopefully, we can keep that mindset going into Saturday.”