Woodard’s Mississippi-based Columbus Falcons were tied with Bearden with three seconds remaining when he bobbled a pass while deep on the right wing. But the 6-foot-6 Woodard calmly gathered the ball, instantly elevated his frame impressively over a defender and released a 24-footer that barely moved the net while lifting old men and children out of their seats.
The 58-55 victory advanced the Falcons (10-4) into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. championship game. They’ll play the Vikings of North Carolina’s North Mecklenburg, who beat Webb of Knoxville 62-55.
Bearden and Webb will meet at 6 p.m. in the third-place game.
It appeared Bearden might have rallied its way into the title game after the Bulldogs rallied from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter to take a 53-51 lead on cat-quick junior point guard Ques Glovers’ driving scoop with 3:41 left.
But there were two ties and three lead changes from there, the last of which came on a crowd-igniting shot that Woodard described as his ultimate career highlight to date.
“I’d have to say that was my top one,” Woodard said. “It feels great. … I knew three seconds is a long time. So there’s no need to rush. So once I gathered myself it was wide open. …
“I kind of fumbled it a little bit. But then, you know, it was on target.”
Woodard finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and a thunderous two-handed dunk on an alley-oop pass from 6-7 wing Denjay Harris, who scored 17.
Glover led Bearden with 17 points.
It was the first loss of the season for Jeremy Parrott’s Bulldogs (17-1), who went to the state tournament in his first season last year.
“It’s tough,” Parrott said. “You don’t get many chances to win Arby’s.”