BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team took the court last Friday with heavy hearts.
Prior to the game versus neighboring rival Naugatuck, Woodland head coach Jess Moffo addressed the crowd to announce that the game was being dedicated to the memory of Margaret Varhol.
Varhol of Prospect passed away Feb. 2 at the age of 52. Varhol, the wife of Paul Varhol, was a long time member of the Woodland Football Booster Club. Her son, Alex, is a senior and football player at Woodland. Her daughter, Amanda, is a sophomore at Woodland.
The Hawks earned an emotional 54-28 win over the Greyhounds.
“We weren’t just playing to win a game tonight we were playing for one of our family,” Moffo said. “It was really emotional. Margaret was a long time member of the football booster club and Alex and Amanda are great kids. It has been tough on all of us, she meant so much to this community.”
Woodland came out in an emotional game and held a slim 19-12 lead at the half.
Woodland senior captain Becky Hale then led the way after the break. Hale poured in 11 of her game-high 16 points during the third period as Woodland took over the game on the strength of a 21-6 outburst.
Woodland came out looking to spread it around and snap a six-game skid. Naugatuck got on the board first when Alyssa Peterson found Alyana Sosa for a bucket out on the wing.
Carla Piccolo (10 points, 11 rebounds) drained a three from the corner and Maddie Hupprich threw one in off the window. Hale took one down the lane and the Hawks were out in front by a 7-2 margin.
Molly Kennedy (five points) threw down a pair at the line for the Greyhounds, but a drive to the basket by Woodland’s Cameron Caswell (nine points) gave Woodland a 10-5 cushion heading into the second period.
Jen Triana converted from the foul line and Cam Johnson threw down a put-back to extend Woodland’s lead in the second period. Alexandra Mezzo hit both ends of a one-and-one at the line for the ‘Hounds and Alexis Woods hit a baseline drive to close the gap with Naugatuck trailing 14-10 with 1:34 to go in the first half.
A three-pointer from Caswell and a bucket from Hale in the paint handed Woodland a halftime advantage of 19-12. Naugatuck was showing signs of staying competitive. Jackie Aronin and Stefanie Flores turned in all out hustle efforts, and the Hawks needed to take over the momentum of this game.
Andrea Mercer (five points) and Ashley Daymonde (seven points) gave the ‘Hounds a solid effort along with Taylor Campos (six rebounds, three assists). But, it was no match compared to the efforts of Hale.
Hale ignited a game-changing six-point run that opened up a double-digit lead at 27-15 with 2:56 remaining in third quarter. Hale went on to drop 11 points through the cylinder and a three-pointer from Jenna Pannone put the Hawks on top 40-18 heading into the last period.
Jill Chicano, Erika Michie and Eliza Smith came on to secure the boards for the Hawks with Haley Andrews, Kristen Persico and Megan Sirowich running the offense.
Woodland closed out the win by outscoring Naugatuck 14-10 in the final period.
“We knew coming in here that Naugatuck was without Nicole Boucher which is huge as she can be a real game-changer,” Moffo said. “Naugatuck always plays hard, so we had to match their intensity and we did a good job of that in the second half.”
Woodland needed to win its last three games to qualify for the state tournament. A 42-21 loss to Watertown on Tuesday knocked the Hawks (5-13) out of contention for states.
Piccolo had a game-high 13 points against Watertown.
The Hawks will host Wolcott Wednesday, then travel to Wolcott on Friday to end the season.
Naugatuck’s approach won’t change as the Greyhounds look to end the season strong.
“I’m seeing a much more confident bunch of girls out there for us,” Naugatuck head coach Jodie Burns said. “We have four games left, and we are going into everyone with the same attitude that we can win these games.”
That confidence showed Tuesday night as Naugy (2-15) earned a 45-28 victory over Wilby.
Bridget Rosikiewicz scored 10 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Campos and Jami Dwy each added eight.
The Greyhounds will host Torrington Thursday. Naugy will close out the season on the road Feb. 17 at Wolcott and Feb. 18 at Torrington.