HS Boys Basketball: College Park Vanquishes The Woodlands During Holiday Break

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 12/19/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The College Park Cavaliers (17-2) outscore the visiting Woodlands Highlanders (9-6) in the first edition of the War of the Woods for the 2023-24 season 67-50.

A rocking crowd for both teams gathered at College Park High School for the rivalry matchup that defines the Woodlands area. The Highlanders arrived with a chance to put the first district loss on their rival’s resume, while the Cavs aimed to remain undefeated.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, College Park Head Coach Clifton McNeely illustrated the electrifying environment’s impact on the team’s headspace.

“It's important to the kids to know they’re supported,” said McNeely. “Being that it’s a holiday break and having a crowd like that is very impressive.”

The flow and mood of the game were set from the opening possessions for both teams, as each basket sent the crowd to their feet.

College Park’s notable size difference made minimal difference to the Highlanders. The Woodlands’ focus on shooting threes worked to perfection, as the team stayed even with their rivals for the majority of the first quarter.

The Cavaliers’ first look at separation came with three minutes left in the first. A 6-0 run put College Park ahead and forced the Highlanders to take a timeout to handicap their opponent's momentum before it began snowballing out of control.

The timeout halted all scoring for the remainder of the first quarter, ending the high-throttle start with the Cavaliers up 18-11.

The lack of scoring that ended the first quarter carried over to the start of the second. The only point scored during the first two and a half minutes was a College Park free throw, as the well seemingly went dry for both teams.

A minor string of scoring reignited the offenses of both squads at the midpoint of the second quarter. This scoring was led by the Cavaliers and Aiden Buckmon, who ended his half with 15 points.

Another Woodlands timeout came to stop the Cavaliers from running away with the game before the half, but multiple threes and Highlander turnovers increased the gap between the two teams.

The gap stayed firmly on College Park’s side when the first half ended, with the Cavaliers up 38-20.

“Bottom line was we went straight man to man, and they couldn’t score,” said McNeely about his team’s strategy in the first half. “When our defense is clicking like that, easy scoring opportunities are presented for us.”

Pace and shooting defined the start of the second half after the teams exited the locker rooms. Back-to-back threes were the opening baskets for both teams, and a continual trade of points was maintained for most of the third.

Even with constituent scoring, the Highlanders continued to lag on the scoreboard. A healthy double-digit lead stayed intact for the Cavaliers as the seconds ticked by, with the pressure mounting on whether the comeback would be attainable.

College Park was aware of the potential comeback midway through the third quarter, indicated by a timeout to stop a Highlander run. The Woodlands cut deeper into the Cavalier lead, getting it down to 13, but dagger baskets from most Cavaliers kept a tie out of reach.

“We hold everybody to the same standard,” said McNeely. “Whenever their opportunity comes up, they’ve got to take advantage of it.”

Misses compounded the issues for the Highlanders to close the third quarter with their deficit going into the fourth at 50-33.

The situation did not improve for the Highlanders after the start of the fourth quarter, with the Cavaliers burying back-to-back threes in less than a minute.

After a Woodlands timeout, a chippy attitude from both teams built a contentious atmosphere through the middle stretch of the fourth quarter. The hard fouls limited scoring opportunities for both teams, with only three points being scored for two minutes.

Constant fouls also slowed the flow of the game by bringing on constant clock stoppages. College Park’s lead was aided by all of the stopping factors of the fourth quarter, as their lead remained unchallenged.

A handful of made shots from College Park sealed the win for the Cavaliers, who ended the night with a 67-50 win over their rivals.

College Park’s win provides a brief respite from the District 13-6A gauntlet, but the coaches feel that there are holes that need to be filled.

“We still have a lot of room for improvement,” said McNeely. “We still have our best basketball ahead of us.”

Christmas break will provide both teams with a deserving rest before they return to action. The Cavaliers will pack their bags for a long trip to the desert to face Nevada’s Spanish Springs High School, while the Highlanders travel to Austin, where they play Westlake.

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