Hawks fall to Eagles in NVLs

Woodland girls turn their attention to Class M tournament

Kennedy's Destiny Prather (33) loses the ball while being defended by Woodland's Morina Bojka (22) and Carla Piccolo (10) during an NVL quarterfinal game Saturday at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury. Kennedy won the game, 58-38. Woodland opens the Class M tournament Monday versus Coginchaug. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Kennedy’s Destiny Prather (33) loses the ball while being defended by Woodland’s Morina Bojka (22) and Carla Piccolo (10) during an NVL quarterfinal game Saturday at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury. Kennedy won the game, 58-38. Woodland opens the Class M tournament Monday versus Coginchaug. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERBURY — The Woodland girls basketball team had high hopes going into the NVL quarterfinal Saturday versus Kennedy. The Hawks had disposed of the Eagles once already during the regular season.

But this time around the 15-5 Eagles (15-5) were too much to handle as the No. 6 Hawks (13-7) were eliminated by a 58-38 final.

It didn’t start well for Woodland as the Hawks fell behind 10-0 just three minutes into the contest. Woodland showed some resolve and battled back to cut the deficit to 14-10 heading into the second quarter.

That was as close as Woodland would get. The Eagles were aggressive on every trip down the floor and a harassing defense led to 17 Woodland turnovers in the first half.

“It certainly didn’t help us to fall behind by ten coming out of the gate,” Woodland head coach Jess Moffo said. “We didn’t take care of the ball and got rattled by their pressure. It’s a whole different game when you get into the tournament and hopefully our girls will make the adjustment.”

The Hawks didn’t win 13 games by accident and showed that by turning an early 12-1 deficit into a more manageable outcome.

Carla Piccolo (20 points) hit a floater in the lane on an assist from Cameron Caswell. Maddie Hupprich stepped behind the arc and buried a 3-pointer and when Morina Bojka (13 points) rippled the net for a three the Hawks were back in the game trailing 14-10.

Haley Andrews and Eliza Smith began to push the Eagles buttons. Kennedy wasn’t as effective on offense in the second quarter with Woodland turning up the pressure on defense.

But the Hawks were getting beat on the boards as Kennedy held a 22-13 edge in rebounds in the first half. Those second and third looks at the basket were enough for the Eagles to hang another 11 points on the board.

Nine turnovers in the second quarter didn’t allow Woodland to get into an offensive flow and a four-point output led to a 25-14 halftime deficit.

“I don’t know if we were nervous or what,” Moffo said. “But we definitely played a little timid at times. I told the girls that Kennedy was going to play at a different level and we had better match that level or it will be a short postseason.”

Kennedy’s Lynadia Whiting (22 points, 6 steals) seemed to be in on every Woodland turnover and her pressure created a lot of coast-to-coast opportunities in the third quarter.

Jenna Pannone and Jill Chicano came on to shore up the rebounding for the Hawks. However, the turnovers and missed opportunities continued as Woodland was outscored 21-14 in the third quarter and trailed 46-28 heading into the final quarter.

“We did show some heart getting ourselves back in the game twice,” Moffo said. “But in the postseason you certainly can’t afford to start out trailing 10-0 and expect to be successful.”

Woodland will now get ready for the Class M tournament. The Hawks, who missed out on a chance to host a first round game, are ranked No. 17 and will have to travel to No. 16 Coginchaug (13-7) on Saturday.