Cade Woody had played in every single Damascus High School boys basketball game this season but had never really felt quite himself. He had undergone back surgery in the fall to repair a herniated disk and was cleared to play a month before the year tipped off. But, through the first 16 games and 512 minutes, he hadn’t gotten the feeling that he was quite 100 percent yet.
Turns out he needed just eight more minutes, and Northwood had front row tickets for the coming out party.
The 6-foot-3 senior scored 20 points in the third quarter en route to 34 for the night and, “yeah, that was probably when I felt back,” Woody said. “I just got into a groove I guess.”
A groove is a mighty understatement. He doesn’t remember missing a shot in the third quarter at all, hit eight 3-pointers on the night, and did all that damage without playing a single minute in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve probably read about it,” Damascus coach Butch Marshall said of a performance comparable to Woody’s. “But I’ve never witnessed one. It was just one of those situations where he got loose and he was feeling it.”
“Shooting wise?” said teammate Rashard Budd, who provides a viable front-court threat to help ease the defense off of the sharp-shooting Woody. “I’ve never seen somebody shoot like that and he was shooting behind the line.”
Since his return to full health, Woody has averaged 18.75 points per game and Damascus has eclipsed 70 twice in just four contests, something the Swarming Hornets did only once in the 16 games throughout Woody’s recovery period.
“I think now he’s just coming into his own,” Marshall said. “Teams have to pay a lot of attention to him because he’s a very good shooter. Teams can’t leave him alone. He makes everybody else better.”
Northwood left him alone, twice actually. In the Hornets first encounter with the Gladiators — the only time in the first 16 games that Damascus broke the 70-point barrier — Woody scored a then-season high 19 points.
“They were in a weird press,” he recalled of Northwood’s defense. “They lost track of me.”
But even when he’s not hitting, which sometimes happens as he had failed to reach double-digit points in eight games prior Friday’s tilt with Seneca Valley, the opposing defense still has to devote a lot of effort in keeping him bottled up.
“You got to impress upon him not to get frustrated. He likes to shoot, he likes to score,” Marshall said. “If the defense is paying more attention to him, they’re not helping as much on the other kids.”
Budd is usually the biggest beneficiary of Woody’s ability to stretch the defense. With more care being taken to shut down the perimeter, Budd can go to work inside with usually just one defender. But role players such as Connor Burke and Stephon Jacob have also benefitted from the opened scoring lanes.
“From the first game he’s played, he’s got an inordinate amount of attention because teams think ‘If we can shut Cade down, they’re going to have trouble to score’ which is true, you know, because Cade is so good from the outside,” Marshall said. “Most teams will help when their man doesn’t have the ball but they can’t help off Cade. Just from the fact that it makes everybody else’s life on our team easier — even when he isn’t scoring, he’s helping.”
And even when Woody wasn’t quite back yet, he still had an effect. Damascus didn’t lose a game in January, upsetting former 3A/2A contender Rockville twice (50-46; 65-58 in overtime) and running through division rivals Seneca Valley (45-38), Wheaton (43-39), Northwood (74-67) and Einstein (66-55).
“We started to play as a team,” Budd said. “And we believed in each other. And the coaches also believed in each other. Everyone contributed to the streak we went on.”
So, after starting the season 1-7, Damascus has since gone 8-4 with a two-point loss to Wheaton and a one-point loss to Watkins Mill. Woody, now at full strength, is regaining his ability to create his own shot and the timing couldn’t be better as playoffs are set to tip off on Tuesday.
“He’s realized he’s not going to get many wide open looks,” Marshall said.
“When his shot is going it gets everyone up and excited,” Budd said. “Players from other teams, they know they have to find him. They know he’s a shooter.”
If they don’t find him? Well, ask Northwood.