Alma senior grows into role on the court.
From the moment of his first dunk, Kade Wood became the big man on Alma’s campus.
“It’s nice,” said Wood, whose first dunk was against Vilonia in December. “After that first dunk, everybody knows me as somebody that can dunk it now.”
Wood is one of five seniors along with Christian Stahler, Brayden Johnson, Garrison Jensen and Chris Walters who could be playing in their final game as an Airedale on Tuesday night when Alma plays Maumelle in the first round of the 5A-West district tournament at Farmington.
“We’ve played together forever,” Wood said. “We’ve grown up here since seventh grade, and in the eighth grade we were on the same team together. We were undefeated. It’s just us growing up together.”
Alma is the second seed from the western part of the 5A-West, finishing tied for second in the blended 6A/5A-1 conference along with Greenwood behind Harrison.
“They’ve been a real joy to coach,” Alma head coach Stan Flenor said. “They’ve improved and gotten better.”
Wood has started two seasons for the Airedales, but there’s a big difference for the 6-foot-6 senior this year.
“Last year, I was nervous playing,” Wood said. “I didn’t play much my sophomore year. Last year, I was nervous the whole year. This year, offseason, my confidence went up a lot. Coach Flenor helped me with that. This year, I came out and it’s a whole different year.”
Wood had some big games for Alma last year, like scoring 25 in a 62-56 win against rival Greenwood.
This year, though, he’s been more consistent and even dominating at times, leading the team in scoring with 11.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
“It’s confidence,” Flenor said. “It’s just like anything, we all go through it whether it’s our job or our family or whatever, confidence is a big deal. He wants the ball, he’s relaxed, but the biggest thing has been confidence, and he’s showing confidence.”
That was really evident when Johnson was out two games with an ankle sprain, leaving Wood down low with another guard in the lineup. Wood had 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in a win at Clarksville during that time.
“I knew I had to step it up to cover for him, and then Garrison had three fouls in the first quarter,” Wood said. “I knew I had to do even better because of that.”
The Airedales have had spurts of greatness this year and will go into the single-elimination district tournament with 10 wins in their last 12 games.
“When we’re shooting the ball well and passing the ball well we’re hard to beat,” Wood said. “We move the ball and try to get it inside because if we’re dominating inside, then the threes wide open.”
That balance inside and out as well as throughout the team has been a key for the senior-ladened Airedales. They have won 10 of their last 11 when they have at least three players score in double-digits.
“Things that have given us success have been balanced scoring, balanced inside and out, offensively, and then on defense being solid,” Flenor said. “For us, it’s important to continue to do that.”