WATERBURY — All season, Woodland couldn’t take down the royalty of the Naugatuck Valley League. Sarah Royals and Torrington made sure that didn’t change in Monday’s NVL tournament semifinal at Kennedy High, as the Red Raiders eliminated the resilient Hawks, 53-49.
Woodland couldn’t hold on to a lead that ballooned to as many as six points in the third quarter, as Royals (game-high 21 points) engineered an impressive comeback for top-seeded Torrington.
A three by Woodland senior Jen Fredericks (12 points) put the fifth-seeded Hawks ahead, 27-21, with 5:05 to go in the third. But Royals and teammate Lauren Cilfone (11 points) powered a 14-3 Raider run to close the quarter, giving Torrington35-30 lead, its largest to that point.
The latter part of the third period was the first time Torrington gained any real momentum—and its first lead since the end of the first quarter—due to Woodland’s outstanding 2-3 zone defense. The Hawks scored 10 unanswered points from the end of the first until the 4:11 mark of the second to gain its largest lead, 18-11. Woodland held Royals to just four points in the first half while maintaining a 22-21 lead at the break.
“We had [Torrington] backing into the zone,” Woodland head coach Gail Cheney said. “We played well inside and frustrated them in the first half.”
Royals, the NVL’s leading scorer, at 21.1 points per game, soon took the game’s outcome upon herself, seemingly driving the lane at will for a runner or a kick-out jumper. The junior accounted for all 11 of Torrington’s second-half field goals, scoring seven and assisting on the other four.
“We didn’t stop her,” Cheney said. “We knew they were going to slow the game down once they took the lead, so we had to move out of our zone. Nobody except for Katie [Alfiere] wanted to step in for a charge and [Royals] took advantage.”
Another three by Fredericks cut the Raiders’ lead to 35-33 to open the fourth quarter, but Royals knocked down four consecutive layups to re-extend Torrington’s lead to 43-36 with 5:40 to go.
A pair of hookups between Woodland junior guard Lindsay Feducia (11 points) and junior forward Heather Framski (10 points) trimmed the deficit to 43-42 with 3:35 left, but the Hawks couldn’t inch any closer. A miraculous trey off the glass by Alfiere (team-high 14 points) cut the gap to 53-49 with 1.9 seconds remaining, but it was too little, too late for Woodland.
Still, Cheney found bright spots in the effort displayed by her team, which became the first squad in program history to win a postseason game, when it defeated Ansonia in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
“We lost by four to a really good team playing with really only six players,” she said. “It kinda sucks to lose, but what are you gonna do?”
The Raiders will take on Holy Cross, which defeated St. Paul in the first semifinal of the night, in Wednesday’s championship, slated for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Kennedy.
Woodland, meanwhile, will prepare for its Class M state tournament game. The Hawks will likely be the No. 17 seed and travel to No. 16 Montville for a first-round game Tuesday at 7 p.m.