BEACON FALLS — What should have been the most jubilant moment of the last four years for the Woodland boys basketball team instead was bittersweet.
The Hawks held off Derby, 63-62, on Tuesday night to clinch a state tournament berth for the first time since 2014. But that victory came after Justin Marks suffered a broken collarbone on a gritty play that has defined his contributions this season.
“Justin has probably picked up north of 20 charges this year. He stepped in and drew a charge, and unfortunately the kid caught him just right and he broke his collarbone,” Woodland coach Tom Hunt said.
After Woodland (8-11) finished off Derby (8-11), thanks in part to a pair of layups by John Frasco inside the final minute, the Hawks appreciated the moment but didn’t let loose a wild celebration in the locker room.
“The guys were really thinking about Justin,” Hunt said. “It wasn’t as big a celebration as we would have liked, knowing one of our comrades had gone down during the game. He’s one of the reasons we’ve done as well as we’ve done. Being as undersized as he is, he’s aggressive and has helped rebound the ball and been there on the defensive side.
“But they were excited. We set one goal before the season, and that was to get to eight wins. They accomplished the goal and they felt good about themselves in the locker room.”
Zach Bedryczuk led the Hawks with a game-high 31 points, including five 3-pointers. Marks tallied seven points before his injury, while Kyle Macek also poured in seven. Mickey Meier scored eight points and earned special plaudits from Hunt.
“Mickey Meier played one of the best games he’s played all year,” Hunt said. “The rebounds he got without Justin’s help — he was really our only guy who could go get rebounds against Derby’s athleticism.”
Woodland entered Tuesday’s game on a three-game losing streak, leaving the Hawks only that game against Derby and Friday’s game against Kaynor Tech to crack the state tournament field. But Hunt said that his team wasn’t feeling any extra pressure to notch that elusive eighth victory.
“We thought we matched up pretty well with Derby,” Hunt said. “We were ready for them. The kids came out ready to go and they played hard. They played inspired.”
After concluding the regular season Friday against Kaynor Tech, Woodland has the next week and a half off. The Hawks will open up Division V state tournament play on the road March 5 against an opponent to be determined.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the game against Kaynor Tech was postponed to Friday.