Senior Sarah Wood cuts down a piece of the semi-state net
BY SCOTT HUNT – email@example.com
MIER — You have to look much deeper than a box score to see what Sarah Wood has meant to this year’s Oak Hill girls basketball team.
Wood, the lone senior who will suit up for the Golden Eagles in Saturday’s state championship game against Eastern (Pekin) at 12:45 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, has meant a lot of things to Oak Hill Coach Todd Law and her underclass teammates who will try to bring the first girls’ state title to Grant County.
Most of Wood’s 50 minutes of court time this season have mostly come in a mop up role after the Golden Eagles had decimated a team in one of their 27 wins.
But that’s completely fine with 5-foot-6 senior guard who proudly wears No. 35.
“(Coach Law) told me (before the season) he would be glad to have me on the team because I’m a hard working individual,” said Wood after Oak Hill’s 42-33 win over Central Noble in the semistate championship Saturday night. “But he said I might not see the game floor a lot. This is my last year of doing organized sports all together so I was just happy to be allowed to be on the team and practice with them everyday and play.”
That attitude, along with Wood’s hard working nature was appealing to Law. He admitted there have been times through the season where Wood’s maturity have had a calming influence on his young – sometimes emotional – basketball team. The Golden Eagles roster has only three juniors to go with its only senior.
Wood scored 17 points this season, hitting 4-of-10 shots from the floor – missing her only 3-point attempt – and connecting on 9-of-14 free throws. She also grabbed seven rebounds and had one steal.
But like many other people surrounding the Oak Hill girls team and many observing from afar, Wood is surprised at the level of success they’ve attained.
“I walked into this year thinking we are going to be okay, and we’re going to get places,” she said, who wasn’t sure how she would be accepted without any other seniors on the roster.
“This year has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve made so many unique friendships and they all treat me as one of them and I’ve enjoyed it. They refer to me as their mom occasionally. I’m okay with it but it also makes me feel old.”
Law sees the mom reference as a sign of respect from his underclassmen, many of whom are too young yet to drive.
“We do call her mom. She tries to keep us in line a lot,” said sophomore guard Jenessa Hasty.
“She takes us everywhere, like when we want to go and eat after a game, she’ll volunteer and she’ll volunteer to take us home too. She’s been a great person. When we practice she works so hard and she is a great sport. She cheers us on so much during the games even if she doesn’t see the court. She loves us all.”
Though Wood’s role has been small on the floor, she’s been a role model of attitude and effort throughout the season. Law believes his younger players have definitely taken notice. Wood was also fittingly, the first one to the top of the ladder Saturday night to claim a piece of semistate net.
“She has meant the world to our team from that standpoint, those girls walking in the locker room knowing she didn’t even get to play tonight, but she’s over there supporting and encouraging and doing her role,” he said.
“There are different roles on a team and they’re not all out here on the floor. Everybody on this team has accepted what the role I gave them and played it to their best. They have bought in to the team concept and that’s a big part of why were standing here now.”