Postseason prep builds excitement

Woodland’s Zach Bedryczuk (5) shoots as Kaynor Tech’s Darren Guerrera (14) defends during the regular-season finale Feb. 23 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Four years have passed since the Woodland boys basketball team prepared for a state tournament game, so Hawks coach Tom Hunt had to get back to basics with his squad — right down to when they’ll take pregame warmups.

“This is the first time that a lot of the guys have ever been to a state game,” Hunt said after practice Tuesday. “We have an itinerary that we want to follow since it’s different than a regular game. We just have to get the kids ready to play. We’re excited. The kids are excited that they made states and that we can play someone from outside the NVL.”

No. 22 Woodland (8-12) will face No. 11 Innovation (14-8) in the first round of the Division V state tournament Monday at the magnet school in New Britain.

Innovation won the Capitol Region Athletic League championship Tuesday night by defeating Parish Hill, 56-53. Parish Hill is the No. 6 seed in the Division V tournament and has a bye as it awaits the winner of the Woodland-Innovation game.

Hunt attended that championship game to scout both teams. But no matter the specific challenges a team poses in the postseason, each playoff game comes down to the same thing.

“The whole mentality is win and advance,” Hunt said. “There’s no tomorrow. Those are clichés, but it’s the truth. We have to leave everything on the floor. When the clock strikes zero, if we’re not winning, we’re not moving on.”

Woodland will have to play without junior swingman Justin Marks, who suffered a broken collarbone during the last week of the regular season.

Woodland’s John Frasco (4) shoots over Kaynor Tech’s Nashua Lovett (22) and Sydney Asiedu (21) Feb. 23 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“I don’t know if we can fill the gap because he was such a big factor, but we’re going to go with the next-man-up mentality,” Hunt said. “We have some guys ready to fill in. It will be a different feel without one of the guys who got us to the tournament. We’ll have guys in different spots who have to get it done.”

The Hawks will be led by Zach Bedryczuk and Mickey Meier, who each scored 16 points in a 63-52 loss to Kaynor Tech last Thursday to end the regular season.

A victory by Woodland would send it to the second round Wednesday against Parish Hill in Chaplin. Hunt is happy that his Hawks are in the Division V tournament in the new postseason format, which places teams through a combination of size and past success.

“I really think that it’s about time the CIAC put the schools of choice and the perennial powerhouses in the same divisions,” Hunt said. “They’re using subjective reasoning, so it’s a lot easier. When you just go by numbers, things don’t always pan out the way they should. It’s going to make for a better tournament.”