April Woodard plays basketball at a level few girls can achieve.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
In fact, the Harlem junior does something no other girl in the county does.
Woodard shoots a pure jump shot, rather than the normal set shot that most female players in the area use.
"That makes her incredibly difficult to guard," said Greenbrier coach Garrett Black. "She can shoot from anywhere at any time. She can shoot on the move and is very accurate when open."
That jumper has helped Woodard have a breakout season for the Lady Bulldogs.
Woodard's 16.1-point average is good for third best in the county, behind the duo of Melissa Lewis and Michelle Swiec, of Greenbrier.
"The thing about April is you always have to know where she is on the floor," Lewis said. "She is very athletic and can score anytime."
That offensive prowess has made Woodard a marked Bulldog.
Every team that plays Harlem has one goal: shut down April Woodard.
Sometimes the strategy has worked. Other times Woodard, who honed her skills by playing against boys, will still be successful.
"I know that every time we play, other teams are going to try and stop me," Woodard said recently. "But I just have to play my best game and do what I can."
Harlem (7-12) hasn't been able to develop a consistent secondary option to take some of the pressure off Woodard.
"We just need someone to step up every night and be that second threat," said Harlem coach Kim Chambers. "Some nights, we get scoring from a lot of girls. Other nights, April has been on her own."
Woodard has scored in double figures in 16 of the team's 19 games, despite being singled out by opposing defenses. She also has two-thirds - or 16 of 24 - of Harlem's double-figure scoring nights.
"It has to be tough to deal with the kind of defensive pressure she sees," Black said. "But she does it as well as any player I've seen."
Woodard has scored 31 twice, against Aquinas and the Academy of Richmond County, and will be counted on to score in bunches when the 3-AAA region tournament begins Saturday.
"We are just trying to get better as the season goes on," Woodard said. "Hopefully it pays off in the end."
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