BEACON FALLS — This season has been all about trying to get over the hump for the Woodland girls’ basketball squad. The Hawks have been near the top of the Naugatuck Valley League, but haven’t been able to overcome the league’s best and have suffered a few letdowns along the way. The Black and Gold had another chance to get over that hump last Friday against Holy Cross.
But Woodland squandered a halftime lead and double-doubles by both Katie Alfiere and Heather Framski en route to a 58-50 loss to the Crusaders in Beacon Falls.
Hanging onto a 30-29 lead at halftime, the Hawks went back and forth with Holy Cross throughout the first 2 ½ minutes of the third quarter before the Green and Gold went on a 7-2 run to open up a 42-36 lead—their largest edge to that point—with 2:55 remaining in the third. Woodland closed the gap to 42-40 with 1:26 left in the period, but Cross responded by outscoring the Hawks, 13-6, from that point until the 3:25 mark of the fourth to seal the win.
Holy Cross ran a stifling full-court pressure defense all night, forcing Woodland to commit more than 20 turnovers and giving Cross’ Devon Diliberto (19 points) extra chances to score.
“It definitely put pressure on us,” Alfiere said. “We can get out of the pressure, but we started to panic sometimes. They did a good job of taking advantage of our turnovers. We had way too many of those.”
If Woodland’s turnovers were responsible for taking the Hawks out of the game, Alfiere and Framski were just as responsible for keeping them in it. Alfiere racked up 19 points and 17 rebounds, both game-highs, while Framski notched 14 points and 16 boards. Unfortunately for Woodland, the rest of the team contributed only 17 points and one rebound.
Whenever the Hawks were in need of a score, they went to Alfiere in the post. The senior utilized a variety of post-up moves, including drop-steps and physical banging, to free herself from the undersized Crusader defense.
“I wanted to go out and play as hard as I could,” Alfiere said. “I’ve never beaten Holy Cross, and it’s something I wanted to try my hardest to do. I rebounded well, and my post moves were working to get me open.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, as each team seemingly responded immediately to the other’s scores. Woodland mixed post points with mid-range jumpers to pace its scoring, while Holy Cross managed to stay in the game early, thanks to its three-point shooting. The Crusaders knocked down four of six trifecta attempts in the first half to stay within one at the break.
The Green and Gold, after going on the 7-2 run to take a firm lead midway through the third, stayed ahead by sinking free throws. In fact, Cross missed just two foul shots in the second half, led by Brianna Bradford’s 10-of-10 performance.
The loss kept Woodland firmly behind Torrington, Holy Cross, and St. Paul as the fourth-best team in the NVL. The Hawks also lost Tuesday at Ansonia to drop their record to 13-5 with two regular season games to go. They’ll host Torrington Friday, on senior night, before heading to St. Paul Feb. 17. Although the team’s divisional hopes are gone, Woodland still feels like it has a chance to make noise in the NVL tournament, which starts Feb. 20 at Holy Cross.
“I think we’re still good enough to beat anyone,” Alfiere said. “But we have to play our best game. We can’t turn the ball over so much. We still have Torrington and St. Paul left, so we have to win those games.”