NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team made enough free throws to stay in front of Woodland last Saturday with just seconds left in regulation, but not enough to put the game away. The Hawks’ Andrea Piccolo reached up, pulled a rebound off the rim and floated in a put-back that rippled the net as the buzzer sounded.
The referees huddled and signaled the basket was good, which tied the game at 32-32 and sent it to overtime. Naugatuck ran out of gas and Woodland had just enough left in the tank as the Hawks squeezed out a 35-32 white-knuckle win.
“We needed to win a game like this,” Woodland coach Jess Moffo said. “We knew Naugy needed this one just as bad and they had two starters out. But Jodie (Ruccio, Naugatuck’s coach) does a great job over there, and no matter what five she puts out there you can guarantee they will play with a lot of heart.”
Naugatuck came into the game a little empty-handed, without starting point guard Emma Colucci and leading scorer Angelina Piccirillo. But the Greyhounds have an abundance of young talent that is still developing as they led throughout the game until the buzzer-beater that sent the game to OT.
“We were without two of our best players, but we had opportunities and we just didn’t finish them,” Ruccio said. “We had three sophomores, a junior and a senior out there in overtime and they are not used to that kind of pressure.”
Woodland trailed 21-12 at halftime but cut the deficit to 25-23 entering the fourth. Cameron Caswell (seven points) knocked down a 3-pointer that tied the game at 28-28 with 1:05 to go, but Taylor Campos (five points, five rebounds) and Jess Butler hit free throws to give the ‘Hounds a 32-30 advantage with seconds remaining. Naugy could have put away the game sooner but shot just 5-of-10 from the stripe in the fourth.
Piccolo (19 points, 22 rebounds) threw in the buzzer-beater to set up the overtime conclusion. In that period, Naugatuck went scoreless while Woodland hit three free throws, with Triana hitting one and Piccolo finishing the deal with a pair for the 35-32 final margin.
“Andrea Piccolo is the heart and soul of this team and she settled us down to keep us in this game,” Moffo said. “Our point guard, Cameron Caswell, is only a sophomore and she is going to be a great player. But we owe this game to Becky Hale, who was huge in OT, pulling down four rebounds.”
Naugatuck started the game by threatening to run Woodland off the court. Jackie Aronin (seven points) buried a 3 to give the ‘Hounds the lead, and when Andrea Mercer scored on back-to-back possessions (including a 3), Naugatuck took an 11-3 lead into the second period.
The Hawks may have been behind but held a 10-3 advantage in rebounds, and that came back to haunt Naugatuck. After not turning the ball over the entire first period, the ‘Hounds committed eight turnovers as the Hawks turned up the defensive pressure.
Christina Batista and Christina Jando banged the boards for Naugy but Hale (seven points, nine rebounds) and Carla Piccolo (eight rebounds) gave the Hawks enough second chances to close the gap.
“Woodland scored 19 of their 35 points on second chances,” Ruccio said. “We need to do a better job of boxing out. You can’t let an opponent have that kind of advantage and expect to win.”
Woodland, on the strength of a 49-27 advantage in rebounds, fought to get back in the game. Andrea Piccolo scored six points on three put-backs in the second period to lead the comeback.
Naugy kept some breathing room, though. Campos hit a couple of corner jumpers, Nicole Boucher (five points, five rebounds) threw in a put-back and Jamie Dwy knocked down a turn-around jumper in the lane to give Naugy a 21-12 halftime lead.
In the third, the Hawks applied more defensive pressure with Jen Chicano, Maddie Hupprich and Triana. Naugy scored just five points in the third period, while Caswell, Hale and Andrea Piccolo led the 11-point offense as Woodland cut the deficit at 25-23 heading into the fourth period.
“As devastating as this loss is, we will only get better as a team with the experience these younger girls are getting,” Ruccio said. “There are still some wins ahead of us and once we get everyone back we will be in good shape heading down the stretch.”
The hill gets a little steeper for Naugatuck (5-6) after dropping a 43-37 decision to Sacred Heart on Tuesday. The ‘Hounds and will host St. Paul on Friday before traveling to Torrington on Tuesday.
Woodland (2-8) stumbled in a 44-34 loss to Seymour on Tuesday and will host Wilby on Friday before entertaining Derby on Tuesday.