BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team struggled for most of the first half on Tuesday against Seymour before pulling away for a 45-35 victory.
Both teams were sluggish early; with 2:28 left in the second period both teams hadn’t broken into double figures, as the Hawks held a precarious, 9-8 advantage.
Seymour escaped to the locker room with a slim 16-15 advantage at the half. Whatever Woodland head coach Jess Moffo said to her team at the halftime break was certainly heard loud and clear.
“Not sure you want me to repeat all of it,” Moffo said with a wide smile. “I just basically told them that they needed to pick up their energy level and they came out energized in the second half. We were a little flat in the first half but we took care of that.”
They did, as the Hawks stormed out of the locker room and simply took over the game.
Andrea Piccolo (17 points, 11 rebounds) threw down a put-back to open the third period and give Woodland the lead for good. Then Rebecca Hale buried a shot from the wing and really turned up her game, adding rebounds, assists and a huge block.
Momentum continued to shift and the Hawks threatened to run Seymour right out of the gym. On the next three trips down the floor the Hawks swiped the ball away with Nicole Fowler, Brianna Pacileo and Hale turning steals into buckets to open a 29-18 lead.
“Rebecca has really worked hard to improve her game and you are starting to see the results of that hard work,” Moffo said.
Hale went out with her fourth foul and Cameron Caswell and Carla Piccolo came on and turned in some quality minutes.
“We had two freshmen come off the bench, Cameron and Carla, and they did a great job filling in for us,” Moffo said. “We were playing with a lot more energy than we were in the first half. We basically came out flat in that first half but we straightened that out.”
Alma Rizvani (six points, four assists, four steals) directed the offense along with Fowler (12 points, five assists) and the Hawks outscored Seymour 18-7 in the third period to gain a 33-23 advantage.
Pacileo (four points, eight rebounds) and Ashley Michie (four rebounds) helped Woodland to control the boards and that swung the tide in the Hawks favor.
Cindy Farrell (21 points) helped Seymour stick around but the Wildcats couldn’t cut into the deficit. When Rizvani fouled out with 2:21 to play, Fowler stepped up and controlled the point, breaking the press to allow the Hawks to stay out in front down the stretch.
Woodland, which stood at 9-8 after the win, will return to the state tournament after missing out last year. The Hawks are on the NVL tournament bubble, too, fighting with Wolcott and Crosby for one of two final spots.
“These girls qualified for the states, something they couldn’t do last season,” Moffo said. “Now that is settled the girls want to qualify for the NVL tournament. We have three games left and we want to go into the states with a little bit of a momentum.”
Woodland visits Kennedy on Wednesday then Derby on Friday before hosting senior night next Tuesday in the regular-season finale against Ansonia.