BEACON FALLS — When the season began in December, the Woodland girls basketball team set its sights on qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in three seasons and securing a spot in the NVL tournament.
The Hawks achieved both goals.
An eight-game win streak — the longest in the five-year tenure of head coach Jess Moffo — early in the season punched Woodland’s ticket to the Class M state tournament.
No. 17 Woodland cashed in that ticket Saturday when they went on the road to face No. 16 Coginchaug in the Class M opening round. The season came to an end for the Hawks in Durham as they fell, 62-50.
The Hawks (13-8) held a 26-22 advantage at the half and were down by three with 1:13 left in the game before Coginchaug (14-7) sealed the win at the foul line. The Blue Devils outscored Woodland 23-9 for the game at the charity stripe.
“We had to put them at the line to get possession of the ball and they hit their shots and we didn’t,” Moffo said. “It’s always harder on the road, especially in the tournament, but I’m so proud of how my girls played. It was a fun game to coach and we were in it until we had to put them at the line.”
Morina Bojka led the way for Woodland with 21 points. Maddie Hupprich had eight points. Cam Caswell and Jenna Pannone scored six points each.
Armed with just three seniors — Caswell, Carla Piccolo and Jill Chicano — Woodland established its credibility as a team to be reckoned with. Piccolo scored 209 points on the season (9.5 ppg) and scored in double figures in ten games. Caswell was a spark on defense and Chicano was a rebounding force.
“I can’t say enough about the senior leadership and their role in taking us to where we haven’t been before in the last five years,” Moffo said. “They are all captains and led by example, never missing a film session and showing the nine freshman we had how it’s done at the varsity level.
“We didn’t end up the way we had hoped for in the tournament but the experience will make us a better team next year. We will certainly miss our three senior leaders but we have a very talented group of players that gained a lot of experience.”
Among that talented group returning is Bojka, a junior who transferred this year from Chase Collegiate. The Hawks offense took on a new look this season with Bojka in the lineup. She led the team with 358 points (16.3 ppg) and had games of 34 and 35 points.
“Morina did a great job coming in here not knowing me or any of the players and she fit right in,” Moffo said. “She put herself out there and become part of this team. She’s a great kid and a real tough player.”
Woodland also benefitted from a few more scoring options on the court. Junior Maddie Hupprich scored 142 points (6.5 ppg) and sophomore Haley Andrews had 106 points (4.9 ppg).
“Maddie was our unsung hero,” Moffo said. “She didn’t always fill up the stat sheet but every time we needed a defensive stop, a big rebound or a basket to start a run, Maddie was there to deliver the big play.
“The improvement of Haley from a freshman who was thrown into it to where she is know is just incredible, and she is just a sophomore. She is playing with so much confidence now and looking for her shot.”
Juniors Jenna Pannone and Jen Triana will return to give the Hawks a presence in the paint. Woodland also has a solid group of sophomores that gained plenty of experience this year, led by Eliza Smith, Camryn Johnson and Megen Sirowich.
“We will come back next season with a strong starting five and an even deeper team with a lot of experience,” Moffo said. “Some of our freshman will take on bigger roles and we are looking to continue what we started this season.”