Hawks turn focus to Class S tourney
BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys continued their trend of either playing really well or pretty poorly against upper-level Naugatuck Valley League competition in last Saturday’s league quarterfinals.
The fifth-seeded Hawks, who had never been ranked so highly in the NVL tournament, were manhandled by No. 4 Wolcott, 77-42, and made an early exit from the tournament at which they’ve never won a game.
Woodland (12-9) trailed the entire way and lost each quarter in the game. Wolcott led 37-22 at the half and held the Hawks’ top three scorers — Dave Uhl, Tanner Kingsley and Rahmi Rountree — to single-digit scoring.
Meanwhile, Wolcott’s Mike Bozzuto scored 31 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Eagles in the rout.
“Wolcott’s a really good team,” Woodland coach Tom Hunt said. “They made baskets and we didn’t. We came out a little bit flat and they put it on us.”
Just a week before the quarterfinal, the Hawks earned an 86-73 win over Wolcott in one of the team’s best-played games of the season. Whatever the reason, Hunt said he thought the Hawks’ focus was lacking last Saturday.
“When we come out really focused we play really well,” Hunt said. “Some teams are better when they come out loose and we’ve seen that the identity of this team is that we really need to be focused.”
Woodland has turned its focus to the Class S state tournament, a division in which the Hawks will participate for the first time after making the Class M field in each of the last three years. They didn’t make it past the second round in Class M and earned one combined victory in the three appearances.
Still, a school-record fourth trip in a row — one that results in Woodland’s first home postseason game since 2005 — gives Hunt a sense of satisfaction.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this program,” Hunt said. “Four years ago we made the tournament for the first time under me and this will be the first home game we’ve had under me. It’s a real testament to the program and the seniors who have been here all four years.”
Woodland sits in the top quarter of the bracket as the No. 9 seed. It will host No. 24 St. Bernard (9-11) Tuesday at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to Thursday’s second round against either No. 8 Gilbert or No. 25 Weaver.
A likely meeting with No. 1 Capital Prep would await in the quarterfinals March 11.
Tuesday’s game is the first boys state tournament contest played in Beacon Falls since the 2005 Division III first round, when Woodland knocked off Waterford, 74-61. That season remains the best in school history, resulting in a trip to the tournament quarterfinals.
Just because the Hawks are down in Class S this March doesn’t mean Hunt expects any victories to come easily.
“There are good teams in every division,” Hunt said. “The most important thing is that we have to play Woodland basketball and leave it on the floor. There are no easy trips to Mohegan (Sun, for the finals) in any division. There are going to be top teams that we’ll have to go through to get there.”