BEACON FALLS — Even though the Woodland girls basketball team missed out on the postseason, head coach Jess Moffo can’t help but be excited with the way her Hawks finished out the regular season.
Woodland surged to a 6-14 record by winning three of its last four games, including a little bit of revenge in season-ending victories against Seymour and Derby.
“I’m happy the way we ended,” Moffo said. “I wish we were still playing, but the girls never gave up and they worked every day in practice to get better. They showed me a little bit of what they can do next year.”
After a five-game losing streak took Woodland out of contention for the postseason, the Hawks rebounded for a strong finish. They knocked off Ansonia 49-29 on Feb. 7 before finishing with wins over Seymour (31-24 on Feb. 12) and Derby (43-32 on Feb. 20).
The latter two wins came after losses to those squads earlier in the season. The Wildcats handed Woodland a 10-point loss and the Red Raiders stole a win in overtime, both in January.
“The last two weeks of the season were great,” Moffo said. “We lost to Seymour by 10 the first time we played them, and we came back to beat them on senior night. Then we beat Ansonia, and then we went to Derby after losing in overtime and we beat them. Those three games were huge.”
Moffo said captains Andrea Piccolo and Becky Hale took the last few weeks into their own hands and propelled the Hawks to a strong finish.
“They had a team meeting and they showed the underclassmen what it takes to get to the next level,” Moffo said. “As captains, they did a great job.”
The hot closing stretch was just one of several highlights for Moffo this season. She also pointed to Woodland’s comeback win over Naugatuck on Jan. 11, which ended in a 35-32 overtime win for the Hawks on the road. Piccolo sent the game to extra time with a buzzer-beating putback, and Woodland held Naugy off the board to get the victory.
“We were down 15 points at the half, and we came back to dominate,” Moffo said. “We only let them score 13 points after the half and we won in overtime. You just can’t forget those games.”
Piccolo’s role in that game illustrated her importance throughout not only this season, but the last several years. She finished her career just short of 1,000 points and her season scoring average of 12.1 points per game was ninth-best in the Naugatuck Valley League.
“It’s hard not to get emotional talking about her,” Moffo said. “I love the girl and I’d do anything for her. She’s done way beyond what I could have ever wanted. It’s not just about what she does on the court, but what she does off the court. She showed everyone this year what it takes. She’s been in positions when she was on winning teams, and she’s been in positions when we came up short. To replace her is going to be hard.”
Piccolo and Erika Tyrrell are the only two graduation losses for the squad. Hale (6.3 ppg), Cameron Caswell (6.8 ppg), Carla Piccolo (6.3 ppg), Jenna Pannone, Jen Triana, Maddie Hupprich and Emily Brouillette will lead the returning group.
“We’re excited for next year,” Moffo said. “Becky, Cameron and Carla are starters from all season who are back, and Jenna Pannone is going to be a wrecking ball next year. Jen Triana got big minutes, and we have Emily Brouillette and Maddie Hupprich who will help us out big time. We have a good freshman class coming in, too, so I’m excited.”