BEACON FALLS — Woodland’s quest to reach last year’s girls basketball state tournament was a crunch down to the final game.
This year, the Hawks are already in with hardly a sweat.
A midseason stretch of seven wins in nine games pushed Woodland to an 11-4 record, easily lifting the Hawks into the state tournament.
“The girls have so much less pressure on them,” Woodland coach Jess Moffo said. “You can see that they’re actually enjoying it. Last year, they were stressed and young. Getting these girls experience has helped so much. They’re playing calmly.”
Woodland maintained a perfect record at home (8-0) by sweeping a three-game homestand against Derby, Torrington and Sacred Heart. The Hawks’ 50-40 victory over the Hearts on Jan. 28 was Woodland’s first triumph over a 10-win team this season.
In that game, Andra Bojka led all scorers with 19 points, while Jill Barbarito tacked on 10. In the 65-47 win over Torrington, Gabby Mastropietro netted a career-high 27 points, while Kylie Bulinski tallied a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“Every game, we’re having a different high scorer,” Moffo said. “I’ve been preaching team basketball and being unselfish. I don’t want to be one of those teams where you can shut down one player and we’d be done. Gabby and Andra have very good court vision. Ava (DeLucia) and Kylie get up the floor very well, and Barbs can create her own shot. They’re all offensive threats.”
Between the spread-out scoring and strong leadership by Barbarito and co-captain Katie Sirowich, the Hawks are clicking at a level they haven’t seen in years.
“The girls have really stepped up,” Moffo said. “They’re working hard and we’re playing more family, team basketball, which we preach. They’re enjoying it and having a good time. It shows on the court. We’re playing hyped. Jill Barbarito is doing a great job on the floor as a leader.”
Still, not everything is perfect. Woodland’s four losses all came by double digits, and the Hawks have missed plenty of opportunities in wins and losses alike.
The Hawks fell to Ansonia, 47-34, Jan. 31 to begin the second round of Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division play. Mastropietro and Bojka led Woodland with 11 points each.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Moffo said. “We have to finish around the rim and make our foul shots. We sometimes get into foul trouble. If we do those little things with the defense we play, we’ll become a first-through-fourth-quarter team.”
Woodland will head to Oxford on Tuesday and host rival Naugatuck this Friday before visiting Derby next Tuesday and getting a home rematch against Seymour on Feb. 13 in a game that could be for the division title.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the article published in the Feb. 6 edition to include information from the Ansonia game played Jan. 31, after press time.