BEACON FALLS — The Naugatuck girls basketball team saw a few games fall by the wayside in the final period over the first half of the season, accounting for four of its seven losses. That was not the case last Friday as the Greyhounds finished what they started, coming away with a 41-35 win over Woodland.
Amy Dietz (16 points, seven rebounds) saved her best for last as she canned four of five free throws with less than a minute to play to seal the win for Naugy.
“Being a team captain I knew I needed to step up, especially in the last period,” Dietz said. “The whole team stepped up tonight. We needed to finish a game like this. We lost a few games earlier in the season that we shouldn’t have. We needed to stop getting into foul trouble, stop turning the ball over and start making those shots in the paint.”
Woodland took its only lead of the game by hitting the first shot and the Hawks, who own victories over 8-3 Torrington and 7-4 Wolcott, looked primed to continue their winning ways.
Naugatuck committed six turnovers in the opening period but four different players got into the scorebook as the ‘Hounds took over the lead for good.
Emma Colucci (six points) hit a shot out on the wing and scored off an inbounds pass from Felicia Gullotta. With less than 2 minutes to play in the period Angelina Piccirillo threw one down on the baseline before Jess Butler hit a pull-up jumper from the corner for a 3-pointer to give Naugy an 11-6 advantage heading into the second.
That’s when Naugatuck turned it up a notch. The Greyhounds did a better job handling the ball, turning it over just eight more times while the Hawks were pressured into 25 turnovers.
“I think Emma and Steph (Lima) are two of the best defenders in the league,” Naugatuck coach Jodie Ruccio said. “We felt we would be a very effective pressing team but we are finding in the half court Jess Butler and Felicia Gullotta are also becoming very strong defenders for us.”
That became the difference in the game. Woodland outrebounded Naugatuck, 13-9, in the second with Andrea Piccolo (14 points, 12 rebounds) hauling down six boards and Ashley Michie pulling down five of her seven boards for the game, but they didn’t translate into many points.
Sydney Cotto hit a shot from the corner and Nicole Boucher (five points) played a significant role handling the ball under pressure as Naugatuck pushed the advantage out to 20-13 with 2:40 to go before the half.
Taylor Campos and Regina Ceryak came on to keep up the defensive pressure as Woodland was forced into seven turnovers in the period.
Nicole Fowler (12 points) buried a 3-pointer and Alma Rizvani (six points, four assists) converted a pair at the line but the Hawks still trailed 22-16 at the break.
“Three things have plagued us this season, turnovers, rebounds and foul trouble,” Ruccio said. “Tonight we hit on 11 of 13 from the line and we made the other team turn the ball over.”
Steph Lima (six points, six steals) hit a couple of runners in the lane for the Greyhounds in the third period but the Hawks started to charge back. Brianna Pacileo scored on a put-back and Fowler hit a turn-around jumper at the buzzer to help cut the gap to 29-26 heading into the fourth.
Dietz took over to prevent another win from slipping away, scoring eight of her game-high 16 points in the final period.
Woodland allowed Naugy to dribble a minute and a half off the clock before Fowler finally hit a 3-pointer to make it a 36-33 deficit with 39 seconds to play. On the next series, Rizvani hit a shot in the lane to cut it to 37-35 with 16 seconds left. But Dietz and Lima both drained one-and-one situations at the line to close the deal in the 41-35 win.
Both teams came up short in games Tuesday. Naugy fell to Watertown, 52-45, while Woodland lost to Holy Cross, 62-39. The Greyhounds (5-8) will visit Ansonia on Friday before a trip to St. Paul on Wednesday. The Hawks (6-6) will host Sacred Heart on Friday before visiting Kennedy on Tuesday.
See more photos from the game here.