WATERTOWN — When a team beats its opponent, 56-26, one would think the winner played some outstanding defense to contribute to the blowout. Add to that fact that 26 points is 11 fewer than the previous-best defensive effort of the season, and it must be a no-brainer that the defense was on its game. In Woodland’s rout of Watertown last Tuesday, however, Hawks head coach Gail Cheney thought otherwise.
“Were we watching the same game?” she responded when a reporter asked about the Black and Gold’s seemingly great pressure. “I didn’t think our defense was that good at all. We have to continue to work hard on it. There’s the saying that defense wins championships, and I truly believe that to be true. We definitely have to improve it to be able to pressure other teams better.”
That might just be a large dose of coachspeak, though. Woodland allowed just two points in the first quarter, led 30-9 at the half, and only allowed the Indians to score double-digit points in a quarter in the fourth, when most of the Hawks’ starters were enjoying a well-earned rest.
The game was probably over after the first quarter. Watertown converted its first chance of the game on a layup, but Woodland finished the quarter on a 16-0 run over the last 4:55 of the period, led by eight points by junior forward Heather Framski and four each by senior center Katie Alfiere and senior guard Jen Fredericks. The Hawks utilized a full-court, man pressure defense, which puzzled the Indians and often did not allow the ball across half-court.
Framski continued her dominant tour of the Naugatuck Valley League in the second quarter, pouring in 10 more points en route to a game-high 24. It was a pretty typical day at the office for the NVL’s second-leading scorer, so what might be of more note are the contributions of Framski’s supporting cast. Of the 10 players on Woodland’s bench, eight sank at least one bucket.
“As anyone will say, a star player is only as good as the players around her,” Cheney said. “Heather’s lucky to have a really good bunch of teammates surrounding her. I’m really pleased with all 10 players I have on varsity. They’re really stepping up. It’s really nice to have the kids apply what you teach them.”
In case few people have taken notice yet, the Hawks are a perfect 6-0, including 3-0 in the Brass Division. They sit atop the Brass, just ahead of St. Paul, which holds a 5-1 overall mark. Ansonia and Derby trail the leaders, while Wolcott, Watertown, and Seymour all sit below .500.
To make Woodland’s unblemished record look even more impressive, four of the Hawks’ six wins have been by at least 23 points. The Black and Gold figure to face some slightly better competition than they have of late, in the upcoming five-game stretch: Derby, Naugatuck, Ansonia, and Sacred Heart before a potentially-colossal matchup with St. Paul Jan. 12.
“My expectations are always high for my teams,” Cheney explained. “It just takes hard work and dedication. I’ve said it time and time again, but this is the most hard-working team I’ve ever coached. We don’t ever think we’re better than anyone, but we try to work harder than anyone.”