Class 2A Final Four: Woodland girls back in state finals (updated)
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Feb 25, 2014 | 4797 views |  0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Woodland's Leah Strain looks to shoot over Montgomery Academy's Elizabeth Bear. Strain had 35 points. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Woodland's Leah Strain looks to shoot over Montgomery Academy's Elizabeth Bear. Strain had 35 points. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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BIRMINGHAM -- Leah Strain is No. 2 on her state’s career scoring list, but she remains laser-locked on her Woodland team finishing No. 1 again.

She scored 35 points to lead Woodland to a 77-52 rout of Montgomery Academy in Tuesday’s Class 2A girls state semifinals and pass West Morgan’s Hayden Hamby on AHSAA’s career scoring list.

With Strain’s notch up to second on the career scoring list, sisters Courtney Strain and Leah Strain stand Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Courtney Strain graduated from Woodland in 2010.

But there’s still a game for Woodland to play. Aiming for their second straight state title and the second in school history in any sport, the Bobcats (33-1) will play Red Bay (32-3) on Friday at 1 p.m.

Red Bay beat Samson 54-38 earlier Tuesday. Woodland beat Red Bay 66-45 in Lauderdale County’s holiday tournament earlier this season.

Guess what was foremost on Leah Strain’s mind after Tuesday’s game.

“I’d much rather win ballgames and win championships than have any kind of record,” she said. “The only reason why I have these records is because the good Lord has blessed me with the ability to play basketball, and because of my teammates.”

Her move on the state’s career scoring list was among the most-watched story lines headed into Tuesday’s game. She came into the game with 4,499 points and needing eight to pass Hamby.

Strain got her eighth point on a free throw at 1:47 of the first quarter. She stands at 4,534 career points, 749 behind Courtney Strain’s career total of 5,283.

“I guess it’s pretty awesome,” Leah Strain said. “I’ll never have as many as Courtney.”

Woodland coach Larry Strain, Leah’s and Courtney’s father, echoed his youngest daughter’s perspective on the family’s 1-2 punch on the state scoring list.

“Obviously, it’s something to be proud of,” he said. “But, I don’t think you can answer the question than any better than what Leah just answered it, in my opinion.”

Woodland also got 11 points and 11 rebounds from Shalyn Strain and 10 points apiece from Shanna Strain and Jaide Walker on Tuesday. Twins Shalyn and Shanna Strain are Leah’s and Courtney’s cousins.

It didn’t take long for Woodland to take control of Tuesday’s game. The Bobcats held Montgomery Academy to 16.1 percent shooting in the first half and got out to as much as a 25-point lead at 46-21, just before halftime.

Woodland forced 22 Montgomery Academy turnovers while committing 14 of its own.

“I did not think it was a very pretty game,” Larry Strain said. “I think it was a sloppy-played game, and I think we all got caught up in the moment, a little bit, of, ‘Hey, let’s go to the other end and score some points fast,’ then they did the same thing.”

Leah Strain had 26 points at halftime. Besides her 35 total points Tuesday, she also finished with a game-high 15 rebounds, nine assists with six turnovers and four steals.

It was a performance similar to her 43-point, 10-assist showing against Lanett in the Northeast Regional final Saturday, but her signature Tuesday didn’t show in her statistics line.

During the second quarter, she found herself alone, trying to in-bound the ball on Montgomery Academy’s end. Montgomery Academy’s Elizabeth Bear had her back turned, so Strain inbounded the ball off Bear’s back, collected the bounce and took off dribbling down the court.

But the news of the night, aside from Woodland’s easy semifinal victory and return trip to the state final, involved Strain making the state record book a 1-2 family affair.

“I’m proud for them, and they deserve it,” Shanna Strain said. “I’m glad it’s them. There’s nobody better to be up there.”

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter, @jmedley_star.
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