BRISTOL — The Woodland boys basketball team couldn’t have asked for a better start. Perhaps that’s why it made the ending so harsh.
Eighth-seeded St. Paul turned a two-point halftime deficit into a 13-point lead in a third-quarter blitz and defeated No. 25 Woodland 49-30 in a Class M state tournament first-round game March 11.
In a game that came down to offensive execution, the Falcons clicked in the second half, outscoring the Hawks 18-3 during a pivotal third-quarter run. Woodland never recovered.
Woodland (8-13) led most of the first half and pushed its lead to six points midway through the second quarter. Seniors Jack Pinho and Tanner Kingsley combined for 11 first-quarter points to propel the Hawks’ fast start and quiet the home crowd.
Kingsley, Woodland’s all-time leading scorer playing in his final game, extended Woodland’s lead to 20-14 following a three-point play. Kingsley finished with a team-high 11 points and Pinho had five — all scored in the first half.
The Hawks defense excelled in the first half and forced 12 turnovers. However, Woodland couldn’t capitalize on the other end.
“Some guys got some looks that they usually knock down, but they didn’t go for us,” Woodland head coach Tom Hunt said. “One or two of those shots fall, we extend instead of letting them catch up and we go in with a different mindset. When you go up eight or 10, you can concentrate on different things.”
The second half was all St. Paul.
After leading 22-20 at the break, Woodland’s offense stalled in the second half and St. Paul found an offensive rhythm in the third quarter.
“It was really about offensive execution,” St. Paul head coach Steve Phelps said. “We weren’t executing on offense, we weren’t taking what we were getting. I thought we were settling.”
The Falcons (15-6) generated more open looks around the hoop, from long range and more free throws. St. Paul hit five of 11 shots from the floor, two of four 3-pointers and six of eight free throws.
Reid Morin jumpstarted the Falcons in the third with a jumper in the lane 15 seconds into the half. A minute later, Jacob Kawiecki put back an offensive rebound to give the Falcons the lead for good.
Morin finished with five points in the third for St. Paul and led a balanced attack with 10 for the game.
St. Paul finished 16-of-19 from the line, including 8-for-8 to seal the game in the final 2 minutes.
It was the third meeting this season between the two schools in a rare conference matchup in the opening round of the states. Each team won on its home court during the regular season.
The loss eliminated Woodland from the tournament and ended its season. The Hawks qualified for the tournament for a program-best fifth straight season.