NEW BRITAIN — A halftime lead in Woodland’s first state tournament game in four years was a good place for the Hawks to be Monday night. Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, the second half didn’t follow suit.
No. 11 Innovation outscored No. 22 Woodland by a dozen points after the break as the Ravens downed the Hawks, 55-44, in Division V first-round action.
Woodland (8-13) held a 9-2 lead after the first period and a 15-14 advantage at the half. Hawks coach Tom Hunt said his team may have left some meat on the bone during that first half.
“Both teams started off cold from the outside. We had a few opportunities we let pass by to extend the lead,” Hunt said. “They pushed back in the second quarter.”
Innovation’s Carlos Gonzalez got hot out of the locker room, finishing with a game-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers. His efforts helped Innovation (15-8) pull away and reach the second round.
“We talked about their best player, and he got hot in the third period,” Hunt said. “They were able to take the lead, but we fought back and never quit. A couple of bounces didn’t go our way and they extended (the lead) a little bit. We played hard, but we just didn’t make some shots down the stretch.”
Zach Bedryczuk led Woodland with 20 points, including three 3-pointers. Mickey Meier was the only other scorer in double figures with 12 points. The Hawks had to play without Justin Marks, a key factor throughout the winter, who suffered a broken collarbone during the last week of the regular season.
“Not having Justin definitely hurt us, but I thought the guys who did play played with everything they had,” Hunt said. “We just came up a little short, but it definitely was not from a lack of effort.”
Hunt also recognized the efforts of the team’s three seniors: Kyle Macek (five points), Jack LaPerriere (five points) and John Frasco.
“The three seniors showed a lot of leadership down the stretch, like they have all year,” Hunt said. “The mark that they leave on the program is a positive one for the younger guys going forward.”
Although Woodland’s postseason stay ended prematurely, Hunt knows how much the brief appearance will mean to the program as the Hawks try to build on this winter’s breakthrough.
“These guys set the table going forward,” Hunt said. “The program is back on the right track. We have eight sophomores, and three starters were juniors. These guys not having been to the (state) tournament, this definitely gives them experience. We talked to them in the locker room after the game, and you could definitely see the hunger. They want to get back. Now they know how they have to work hard to get back there.”