BEACON FALLS — Something had to change for the Woodland boys’ basketball team. After getting out to a 4-1 start this season, the Hawks fell into a slump, dropping six straight. A couple of the losses could have gone either way, but for the most part, Woodland struggled to get it done.
On Tuesday, at the Hawks’ Nest, the Woodland boys overcame a hot-shooting Wolcott team by delivering the goods with the game on the line. Wolcott shot an eerie total of 11 two-pointers, 11 three-pointers and exactly 11 free throws to rack up 66 points on the scoreboard.
The Hawks did their best to stay with the run-and-gun Eagles, as Shaine Thompson blistered the nets with a career-high 34 points, including six three-pointers. Woodland held a 48-45 lead, as the nail-biter entered the final period.
It was about that time that the Hawks had enough. The Black and Gold torched the basket with 28 fourth-quarter points—their highest single-quarter output of the season—securing a 76-66 win to stop the losing streak.
But it wasn’t merely the 28-point blitz that staggered the Eagles. It was the nerves of steel displayed by a team in the midst of a six-game skid. The Hawks had the presence of mind to calmly hit 14 of 20 from the free throw line, including nine in a row, as they took over the game down the stretch.
“We talked in the pregame about coming out with some heart,” Woodland head coach Tom Hunt said. “Play with some pride in the jerseys that we wear. One of the keys was we had to make some foul shots, and we have been working on that in practice.”
It was a three-point game, with the Hawks clinging to a 52-49 lead at the 6:04 mark, when Ryan Genua (10 points) knocked down a pair at the line. Ryan Angeloszek (14 points) followed it up with another two from the stripe.
Thompson answered a Wolcott three-pointer with one from behind the arc to open up a 58-52 advantage. On the next trip down the floor, Angeloszek saw the defense collapsing around him, as he stepped behind the line. He made a quick pass to the top of the key, where freshman Rahmi Roundtree (five points) rippled the net for a three, as the Hawks started to pull away.
After Genua went baseline, off an assist by Bryan Spickle (13 points), Angeloszek again buried a pair at the line to open up a double-digit lead, 65-54, with three minutes remaining.
Thompson converted two more from the line, and Genua hit the front end of a pair before ending the charity-stripe streak at nine in a row, with Woodland comfortably out in front by a 68-56 margin at the 1:45 mark.
“We rebounded well tonight,” Hunt said. “We made some good decisions with the basketball. We talked about closing down on their shooters, and I think we can do a better job than allowing 11 threes. We are coming together and still growing as a team. Like I said at the beginning of the season, the final product will be better than what we had at the start of the season.”
In the teams’ first meeting this season, Woodland escaped with a 51-49 seat-grabber. That fueled a four-game win streak, so a turnaround was on the Hawks’ mind going into Tuesday’s contest.
Ian Bures and Sean Deegan helped to crash the boards, and Eric Brandien, with his three-point ability, caused enough of a diversion to leave Thompson open for his shots.
Thompson connected for eight first-period points, and Spickle threw down a shot on the baseline to give the Hawks a slim, 13-11 cushion going into the second period.
Wolcott began to heat up, with Mike Vacarelli (23 points) and P.J. Witherell (23 points) knocking down three-pointers. The Eagles held a brief advantage, until Spickle went hard to the rack and Thompson dropped in a three for a 31-29 lead at the half.
Thompson added another eight points in the third, but Wolcott closed out the period with back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to 48-45 going into the final eight minutes of the game.
“We get a bit of a boost on Friday with the return of Yahmad Roundtree,” Hunt said. “I have some real good seniors, and they are the reason we kept it all together during that tough stretch. These guys have a lot of pride and believe in what we are trying to do here. They never let the younger guys quit. They kept driving them to get better, and you saw some of that tonight.”
Woodland will be at Watertown on Friday, looking to start another streak—this time in the win column.