WATERBURY — A second monumental upset of Naugatuck Valley League girls title contender Torrington was not to be for Woodland.
The Hawks, who were one of just four teams to knock off the Red Raiders during the regular season, suffered a 61-39 defeat Monday in the NVL quarterfinals at Holy Cross.
No. 2-seeded Torrington wasted no time jumping on No. 7 Woodland (10-11) in the first quarter, suffocating the Hawks with a full-court press and pulling away early with crisp ball movement to take a 17-7 lead.
“We made two bad turnovers on (the press) because we tried to force the ball deep and those hurt us,” Woodland coach Jess Moffo said. “In the first half we didn’t want to drive on them and make contact. We did a better job in the second half but in the first half we tried to run with them.”
The Red Raiders’ press held Woodland to just six first-half field goals and gave them a 31-16 halftime lead.
“I don’t think ball handling is their biggest strength so we like to get out on them,” said Torrington’s Caroline Teti, who scored a game-high 21 points. “They take very few outside shots so we were pushing it and making it hard for them to get it down low.”
Torrington kept the ball away from Woodland’s leading scorer, Andrea Piccolo, most of the day, limiting her to a team-high 10 points.
The Hawks only briefly cut back the lead to single digits early in the second quarter before Teti helped Torrington pull away for good.
From the middle of the second to the end of the third, Teti scored 14 of the Raiders’ 23 points to turn a 23-13 advantage into a 46-24 blowout. It all started with a fast-break layup followed by the first of her two 3-pointers on the day.
“I hit that first jump shot and I love seeing the first one go in,” Teti said. “I’m not especially fond of the rims at Holy Cross but they liked me today.”
Woodland’s box-in-one defense limited Nicole Kozlak to just five points, all in the first quarter. But Teti and four other players — Paige Middelton, Mika Howard, Olivia Morrison and Megan Calabrese — all scored at least five points to propel the Red Raiders.
“We don’t want to leave Nicole open at any time so we shut her down for a good amount of the game,” Moffo said. “If we could keep her in single digits and match up on everyone and rebound, we would be good. But we gave up four big offensive rebounds that they put back and scored.”
Brianna Pacileo scored nine points for Woodland while Becky Hale had seven and Cameron Caswell added six.
“Effort-wise it was there. We didn’t give up,” Moffo said. “We went young today. Carla Piccolo (four points) came in big, Cameron Caswell and Becky Hale came in big. I’m excited for next year.”
The Hawks still have the state tournament ahead of them. They will hit the road Feb. 26 for a Class M first-round game after missing the postseason for the first time ever last year.
“It’s awesome (to be back),” Moffo said. “Last year was such a long year. We competed in a lot of the games but losing by a couple in a lot of those was tough to rebound from. But we ended last season with a win and we built off that during the summer. We have heart.”