BEACON FALLS — With 2:42 left in the third quarter of last Friday night’s rivalry showdown between Naugatuck and Woodland, the Hawks senior captain Eric Buetel got knocked out of the game with an eye contusion that required stitches.
Instead of packing it in, the Hawks showed they could take a hit and get back up. Woodland rallied around its team leaders and pulled out a 67-53 victory.
Woodland’s Jon Scirpo, another senior captain, had a game-high 20 points while James Mesidor led the Greyhounds with 15 of his own points.
The Hawks (4-14) played the game purely for pride as they were eliminated from postseason contention heading into the showdown. Naugy, on the other hand, entered the game needing to win four of the final five games to qualify for the state tournament.
“Well we have to win out now so it hurts man, it hurts,” said Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson following the game. “We didn’t come to play basketball bottom line. Woodland wanted it more, they played harder and they executed. We tip our hat to them tonight.”
The Greyhounds’ quest for a postseason bid ended Tuesday as they fell 63-41 to Wolcott. Mesidor paced the Naugatuck (4-14) offense with 10 points.
Naugatuck and Woodland both came into last Friday’s game on a slide. Woodland had dropped four in a row, including a 58-30 loss to Wolcott the night before. The Greyhounds lost three in a row heading into the game — their third in three nights — including a heart-breaking 80-78 defeat at the buzzer to Torrington Feb. 11.
Woodland took control from the get-go. After the first quarter the Hawks held a 17-15 lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish.
The win was a total team effort as four of the five starters scored in the double digits.
“The kids came out ready to play today and it showed right from the start,” Woodland head coach Tom Hunt said.
Buetel started out hot scoring ten points before his injury. Senior captain Tyler Collodel put on another high energy show with nine points of his own, but had a much larger overall impact.
“[This] kid has the biggest heart. He’s not going to quit, he goes fast and sometimes he will make mistakes but we deal with the mistakes because he has such a big heart and that will that he just will not quit,” Hunt said.
Young guns Zach Bedryczuk and Zach Graveline, who moved into the starting lineup due to ankle injury to Rich Rousseau, both notched 14 points with their quick-release jumpers.
“[Graveline] is a sophomore and he gets more and more confidence as we go along. He has a quick shot that he has grown to have more confidence in and it’s starting to show,” Hunt said.
Adem Rifati stepped up for the Hawks filling in for their downed big man Beutel.
“He plays all five positions for us. In practice we have him play point, and wing. So here is a kid that has to learn twice as much as everybody because he has to learn the inside positions he has to learn the outside positions and he has to know the point role. He soaks it all in and gives it his all, and tonight Eric goes down in the third and we ask him to play inside and he went to work. He boxed out and he manned up,” Hunt said.
When asked what was different versus the Greyhounds Hunt said the Hawks were able to successfully push the ball up the court.
“Tonight Tyler Collodel did a great job of pushing the ball up the wings and when we do that it spreads the floor where we are able to get easier looks,” Hunt said. “Where when we walk it up the defense gets set and they are waiting for you and react.
“Also, the senior guys take great pride in playing hard every single game every single minute and showing the younger guys that no matter what the score is no matter what the day is when you put a Woodland uniform on you play for 32 minutes and you play hard.”
Naugatuck and Woodland will meet again in the regular season finale Feb. 23 at Naugatuck High School, but have business to attend to before then.
On Wednesday, Woodland fell, 45-27, to Joel Barlow. Graveline led the Hawks with 10 points. Scirpo and Bedryczuk added six each. Woodland will host Torrington on Friday.
The Greyhounds lost, 85-46, to Bassick on Wednesday. Naugatuck’s Fejiro Onakpoma had a game-high 23 points. Antoine Sistrunk added seven points and Corey Plasky hit two 3-pointers to chip in six points. Naugatuck will hit the road to face Watertown on Friday.