BEACON FALLS — Woodland girls basketball coach Jess Moffo finally sees her young team growing up.
The Hawks (3-8) have won two of their last three games, both of which saw them stand up to late-game pressure and squeak out victories. Woodland first did it Jan. 11 in a 35-32 overtime win over Naugatuck, and the Hawks repeated that feat last Friday in a 42-40 victory over Wilby.
“We’ve been in a lot of games,” said Moffo, whose team has lost four games after being within single digits in the second half. “We were in the Wolcott, Holy Cross and Watertown games. We’ve been breaking down film and trying to get better at the ends of games.”
Woodland seized another late-game moment last Friday against the Wildcats when Carla Piccolo drained a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to break a tie and give the Hawks the win. Andrea Piccolo led the team with 13 points while Jen Triana had 10. Cameron Caswell added nine and Carla Piccolo had eight.
The Hawks owned the first half but let the Wildcats close in after the break, Moffo said. But when it mattered most, her team came through.
“We had dominated the game and sort of freaked out in the second half,” Moffo said. “But we played with more composure in the fourth quarter, which will help us out in the second half.”
Andrea Piccolo, who leads the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game, is the team’s rock down low as Woodland’s only senior starter. She’s been helped by Caswell and her younger sister, Carla.
“Andrea is going to do her thing, and I can rely on her to be our leader,” Moffo said. “We need the other younger girls to step up. Carla Piccolo has stepped up big-time. She’s our second go-to girl right now. Cameron still has some things to work on, but she’s doing really well to run our team as a sophomore. We just have to jell as a team.”
Junior guard Becky Hale has missed time recently with a sprained ankle, but Moffo said freshman Maddie Hupprich has played well in Hale’s absence. Hupprich’s two points against Wilby were the difference in the game.
“Maddie Hupprich is doing a really good job,” Moffo said. “I told her that not many other freshmen in the league are getting this type of experience, and she’s impressed me a lot. She’s helping us a ton.”
Moffo thinks that entering the second half of the season, the young Hawks have grown to a point where they should be able to challenge the rest of the league and compete for spots in the postseason.
“They know our goal right now is to get five more wins (to make the state tournament),” Moffo said. “Their goal is to get six or seven, and we want to get into NVLs and states. They know it and they want it. At the beginning of the season, we didn’t play with as much urgency because we’re young. But they’re playing with it now, and they want it.”
Woodland’s regularly scheduled Tuesday home game against Derby was postponed to Thursday, which creates a back-to-back situation for the Hawks. They will visit St. Paul on Friday before returning home next Tuesday against Kennedy.
“It’s probably one of the downfalls of the winter season,” Moffo said of the problems caused by snow. “Taking a day off and going right into a game in high school is really tough. Missing one day in practice is a killer, so we’ll try to stay as focused as possible.”