BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team put an exclamation point on the regular season last Friday with a 40-31 win over Naugatuck.
The win gave the Hawks (13-7) a 4-2 record down the stretch of the season. Woodland had this week off as the Hawk prepare to chase after a league title in the NVL tournament that begins Saturday with quarterfinal matchups at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury.
“This was a huge win going into the NVL tournament,” said Woodland head coach Jess Moffo following the Naugatuck game. “It’s Naugy-Woodland, even if we weren’t going into the tournament, anytime we meet with this team it’s huge.
“[Naugatuck head coach] Jodie [Burns] does a great job and always has her team playing hard and they came right out after us in the opening quarter. They were lights out and we had to step up our defense.”
Woodland had to overcome a Naugatuck team that was playing for its season. The Greyhounds, who needed to win its final two games to qualify for the state tournament, jumped out to a 16-12 first quarter advantage led by Ally Mezzo with eight points.
At the half, the Greyhounds held a 22-19 lead.
The Hawks turned up the defensive pressure and held Naugy to just nine points in the second half to pull away.
“We had to turn up our intensity and we needed this win to move up a spot in the NVL tournament and maybe even get a home game in the states,” Moffo said.
Morina Bojka led the Hawks’ offense with 24 points. Cam Caswell and Haley Andrews chipped in with five points each.
Maddie Hupprich and Carla Piccolo combined for 10 rebounds and their presence in the paint allowed Woodland to slow down the Greyhounds.
Caswell (4 steals) and Andrews (3 steals) teamed up to turn up the defensive pressure leading to eight Naugatuck turnovers in the third quarter. The Hawks took control of the game and outscored the Greyhounds 14-3 in the third.
Eliza Smith and Jenna Pannone crashed the boards allowing Woodland to control the action underneath and limit the Greyhounds to just one look at the basket on nearly every possession.
Andrews threw down a baseline drive and Bojka scored off an inbounds play to give the Hawks the lead for good at 23-22 with 5:27 left in the third quarter. Caswell added a bucket off an inbounds as the lead swelled to 28-22.
Jackie Aronin (6 points) nailed a 3-pointer for the Greyhounds’ first bucket in a span of over 6 minutes. But a 5-0 run by the Hawks to close out the quarter had Woodland out on top 33-25 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
The Greyhounds had one final push in them. Nicole Boucher (8 points, 10 rebounds) scored on back-to-back possessions to close the deficit to 34-30 with 4:25 remaining. However, the Hawks defense took over and shutdown the Greyhounds the rest of the way with Bojka and Piccolo hitting a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line.
Moffo credited the Hawks solid finish to the regular season to pushing through a tough stretch in the middle of the year.
“We reached our goal of qualifying for the states early on and then we hit a bump in the road,” said Moffo, referring to a stretch where Woodland dropped four games in a five game span. “I think going through that adversity has made us a stronger team. We were in every game against some very tough teams, outside of the losses to Holy Cross and Watertown.
“It all came down to doing the little things that we didn’t do for all four quarters. I think going through that makes us a little more aware of just what we need to do heading into the postseason.”