Hawks streak to postseason berth

Woodland’s Morina Bojka (22) battles for possession of the ball with Sacred Heart’s Vanessa Riddick (21) and Mahnue Sahn (41) as her teammates Maddie Hupprich (4) and Carla Piccolo (10) back her up Monday night in Waterbury. Woodland won the game, 37-30. –KEN MORSE

Woodland’s Morina Bojka (22) battles for possession of the ball with Sacred Heart’s Vanessa Riddick (21) and Mahnue Sahn (41) as her teammates Maddie Hupprich (4) and Carla Piccolo (10) back her up Monday night in Waterbury. Woodland won the game, 37-30. –KEN MORSE

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team extended its longest winning streak in six years to eight in a row this week and qualified for the state tournament in the process.

The Hawks earned a hard-fought win Monday over Sacred Heart, 37-30, at Alumni Hall in Waterbury to punch their ticket to the state tournament at the halfway point in the season.

Trailing 20-17 heading into the final period, the Hawks (8-1) seized control.

Cam Caswell (seven points) hit a running one-hander on an assist from Hailey Andrews (four points, four assists, four steals). Morina Bojka (20 points, 10 rebounds, six steals) took a steal the length of the floor and put it in off the window and on the next trip buried a three from the corner as Sacred Heart hurried to call a time out trailing 24-22 with 5:24 to go.

The Hawks would put the game away and outscored Sacred Heart 20-10 in the final stanza.

“I think we came out a little flat,” Woodland head coach Jess Moffo said. “Maybe they felt a little pressure realizing what this game meant as far as making states. But the last quarter we showed what kind of team we have when we play our game.

“We shot 5-for-23 in the first half but it was the effort on defense that kept us in this game. Cameron is a phenomenal player and I’m so proud of her for the strides she has made and now she gets to experience the postseason.”

Both teams struggled to put the ball through the cylinder in the first period as the Hearts came away with a miniscule 3-2 advantage after eight minutes of play.

That hardly was an indication of the all-out battle that took place on the court as bodies dove to the floor on every possession. Bojka simply took over the game in the second period.

Bojka went coast-to-coast on a steal, threw down a pull-up jumper in the paint and then drove the lane for a bucket as the Hawks took a 10-9 lead into the locker room at the half.

Sacred Heart responded to open the second half, but the Hawks had an answer of their own. Woodland’s Maddie Hupprich scored off an inbound pass and Carla Piccolo (nine rebounds, three assists) drove the baseline for two and the Hawks trailed 20-17 heading into the final period.

“We came out and had a little bit of a run at the end of the third,” Moffo said. “I told them we have eight minutes left to prove that we deserve making the states. We were missing that energy and that fire that we’ve had during this winning streak.”

Woodland won the rebound battle, 28-25, with Jenna Pannone leading the charge under the basket. The advantage on the boards helped turn the tide versus the Hearts.

The Hawks’ win streak has been fueled by contributions from every player.

Piccolo led the way with 21 points in a 71-20 win over Wilby Jan. 5 with Jen Triana providing a spark off the bench with six points. Andrews led the team to a 47-42 win over Kaynor Jan. 6 with 13 points as Caswell knocked down 11 points. Bojka scored 20 to pace the Hawks to a 57-37 win last Friday over Derby with Hupprich adding 12 points and Jill Chicano and Eliza Smith chipping in four points each.

“Every game someone steps up,” Moffo said. “I can’t say enough about the job that my seniors have done. Morina and Carla have been our scoring leaders, but everyone is contributing.”

The Hawks will find out how far they have come and how far they still need to go as they face some of the top teams in the NVL. Woodland is scheduled to host St. Paul (8-0) Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Hawks will host Ansonia (0-8) on Friday before hitting the road to face Holy Cross (8-1) next Tuesday.