BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys basketball team tips off the season next week looking to improve on last year’s 3-17 campaign in which the Hawks were bitten by the injury bug.
The Hawks lost junior captain Eric Buetel, their 6-foot-5 center, for the year in a preseason game last season. The unfortunate turn of events forced the team to adjust their identity with only weeks before the games that counted started.
“We went into the season a little undersized so for the first time since I’ve been here we looked to turn to a more up-tempo game,” head coach Tom Hunt said.
The Hawks get back their captain and center for his senior season.
“We have Eric back. It’s been a year. He has worked hard to get back to where he was and that’s a tribute to him,” Hunt said.
The Hawks lost their two highest scorers from last season to graduation. Austin Brown led the team in scoring at the shooting guard spot; Sam Merriman, who played off guard, was second in scoring.
The two averaged double digits and accounted for a big chunk of the team’s points last year. However, they should be replaced by a handful of players who are coming back with playing experience.
Tyler Collodel started at point guard last year and will be back to run the show as a senior captain. Senior Jon Scirpo, who also started last year, will be another team captain. Rich Rousseau, the Hawks’ sixth man from last year, is back as well and will play an even larger role this year.
The team will also include some familiar faces from the past.
Juniors Dillon Sender and Nick Dens are back after playing their freshman year. Woodland also added senior David Bobbie to the list of players that are back on the court after a hiatus.
“He (Bobbie) is a guy that comes off the football team that is a hard-nosed kid and brings some character to the defensive side of the ball,” Hunt said.
The Hawks have a few younger players that will contribute this season, as well.
“Zach Gravaline, who is a shooter, and the other x-factor is junior Aden Rifati. He can play inside he can play outside, he is an ‘anything you need coach’ kind of guy,” Hunt said.
The Hawks are planning to play faster this season, but not without playing staunch defense first.
“This year we are going to be a little more of a defensive-oriented team then we have been in the past. The transition from defense to offense will be more of a focus for this year’s team with our depth,” Hunt said.
With a healthy team the Hawks anticipate an improved record and to be able to play with a deep rotation every game.
“This is a team that I feel has a lot of quickness, so with the game we are trying to play this year we are hoping to utilize ten guys and we feel that we have ten guys that can actually contribute at any time,” Hunt said.
That would be a change from the six- or seven-man rotations from years past and should help keep the players’ legs fresh throughout a game and the season, which will be vital for a team that wants to move up and down the court.
The Hawks start their season at home Monday versus Oxford at 7 p.m.