Hawks battle back to top Raiders

BEACON FALLS — If there was a towel within arm’s reach, most teams would have thrown it onto the court after falling behind 12-0 just three minutes into the game. That’s the position the Hawks found themselves in last Friday against Torrington, but Woodland is not most teams.

The Hawks may not be the most talented team or the tallest bunch that ever took the court, but they have ingrained in them the fiery disposition of their head coach, Jess Moffo. That never-quit attitude served them well as they battled back to take a 56-47 win over the Raiders.

“I think we came out a little too hyped up,” Moffo said. “We got away from what we were trying to do and started to throw the ball away. Once we settled down we began to play our style of basketball and limited our turnovers.”

Woodland (5-4) threw the ball away three times in the first two minutes of the game, leading to baskets for Torrington (3-6).

Haley Andrews (14 points, 6 assists, 4 steals) put the Hawks on the board with a 3-pointer with 2:39 to go in the quarter, but eight turnovers in the opening quarter handed the Raiders a 14-7 lead.

The Hawks ramped it up in the second quarter as Hana Bojka (12 rebounds, 4 points) and Jill Barbarito (9 rebounds, 4 points) crashed the boards. That opened up the transition game and Woodland started to run the floor.

Eliza Smith (23 points, 7-for-11 at the line) knocked down seven points in the second quarter, and Woodland trailed 26-21 at the half.

“Once we made the adjustment and went to a 2-3 (zone) we stopped the passes going inside,” Moffo said. “That slowed them down considerably and allowed us to get back in the game.”

Bojka fought her way to a rebound and threw in a put-back with the Hawks trailing 28-25. Barbarito ripped down a rebound and threw it the length of the court where Kate Sirowich chased it down and put it in off the glass to cut the deficit at 30-28.

Torrington coach Mike Fritch called a timeout to try and figure out how the double-digit lead evaporated. Finally, with 58 seconds left in the third quarter, Paige Resnick (9 points) hit a pair at the line to give the Hawks their first lead at 33-32 going into the final quarter.

Once the Hawks had the lead they took over the game. Resnick and Andrews converted two quick steals into buckets, and the Hawks just took flight. By the time Torrington could call a timeout to slow down the flurry, Woodland was out in front 41-34.

“We had one turnover in the second and the fourth quarter,” Moffo said. “We took better care of the basketball. Ball security is huge and that really got us back in the game.”

Twice the Raiders managed to cut the lead to three with time running out, and both times Bojka and Barbarito responded with buckets in the paint to reestablish the Hawks’ two-possession cushion.

“Haley and Eliza did a great job settling things down,” Moffo said. “Hana is our unsung hero. She is a gritty player and brings energy to the court. Jill is getting better every game and she really wants to compete. Paige and Kate are young players but they know how to make plays.”

The win was the Hawks’ second straight following a three-game losing streak. Woodland snapped the skid with a 58-53 win over Wilby on Jan. 10.

Bojka had a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to lead Woodland against Wilby. Andrews had a game-high 21 points, and Smith added 12 points.

Moffo wasn’t too sure at the start of the season if the young Hawks had enough experience with only two seniors to gain enough wins to qualify for the state tournament. At the midway point, the Hawks are at 5-4 and already knocking at the door.

“We are starting to come together and we are getting better with each game,” Moffo said.

Woodland will play Oxford on Thursday. The Hawks finish out the week at home against Waterbury Career on Friday.