BEACON FALLS — As the final buzzer sounded on the Woodland boys’ first home postseason victory in eight years Tuesday night, a sea of white flooded the court. Hawks athletic director Brian Fell didn’t much like it. Everyone else loved it.
“The support of the student body tonight set the tone early tonight,” Woodland coach Tom Hunt said. “These kids just fed off it all night. What a great feeling it was to watch the students rush the court after a big home win.”
The No. 9 Hawks led nearly the entire game, holding off a persistent No. 24 St. Bernard squad throughout the second half en route to a 63-60 win in Class S first-round play.
The Hawks (13-9) were originally scheduled to host a second-round game Thursday night against No. 25 Weaver (9-12), which pulled off a come-from-behind upset of Gilbert. The game has been rescheduled to Friday at 6 p.m. due to the forecast of inclement weather.
Woodland post players Kirk Chamenko and Shane Classey — not usually targets of opposing coaches’ game plans — were as important as anyone in the second half, when St. Bernard whittled down the Hawks’ lead to as little as one point.
Classey’s series early in the fourth quarter may have been most crucial. After the Saints cut the Hawks’ lead to 51-50, Classey came down the other end and made an up-and-under move for his first points of the night and a 53-50 lead.
On the next trip down the floor, St. Bernard won a rebounding battle but Classey came from behind and poked away the ball. Steve Baeder recovered and dished his only assist to Tanner Kingsley, whose layup made it a 55-50 game.
“Shane understands his role,” Hunt said. “He’s going to come in and do whatever the team needs. He had some great rebounds on the offensive end and he had a few steals where he anticipated getting into the passing lanes. He plays really hard.”
After the Saints pulled back to within three, Classey snuck under the offensive boards and pulled down a vital rebound. He wrapped a pass around his defender to the opposite block and Baeder, who banked in a layup for a 57-52 lead.
“I just box out and get low,” said Classey, who snatched another offensive board and converted a layup at the end of the third quarter to give Woodland a 50-45 lead. “It’s what I’ve been told since I was 10 years old.”
St. Bernard’s Paul Pepas hit a layup moments later to make it a 57-54 game, but Chamenko scored the two most important of his game-high 16 points on the Hawks’ next offensive series. He drifted away from the defense in the post and converted off a laser from Dave Uhl.
“Dave and I have been friends since kindergarten,” Chamenko said. “We play well together. I usually wait for him to put together his dribble drives and I just stand there and do the easy work.”
Uhl and Kingsley combined to hit four of five free throws inside the last 1:09 of regulation to keep a narrow lead. St. Bernard had a potential game-tying possession inside the final 10 seconds but never managed to launch a 3-pointer.
“We’re comfortable at the free throw line,” said Hunt, who led the team to its first home playoff win since a victory over Waterford in the 2005 Division III first round. “That’s something come tournament time that you need to be. The kids were ready at the end.”
Woodland raced out to an 18-5 lead in the first 4 minutes of the game, paced by a pair of Kingsley 3-pointers, a pair of Chamenko second-chance points and a pair of Rahmi Rountree drives.
“We practiced for over a week so we were really prepared,” said Rountree, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds. “We were so eager to play that the chips just fell.”
St. Bernard worked itself back into the game, helped by five of the team’s nine 3-pointers. But the Saints held only one lead, 25-24, for a few moments early in the second period. Woodland’s 11-2 run erased it.