BEACON FALLS — What a way to celebrate senior night. What a way to break a three-game losing streak. What a way to finally qualify for the state tournament.
The Woodland boys scored a season-high 81 points, including 27 in the first quarter and 41 in the first half, in an 81-41 blowout of Seymour on Tuesday night to make the state tournament for a school-record third season in a row.
All doubt was erased in the first quarter when the Hawks (8-9) took a 27-11 lead, including a 25-3 run over five minutes to essentially put the game out of reach before it even got started with a suffocating pressure defense and red-hot shooting.
Woodland hit five of its seven 3-pointers in the quarter, including two by Tanner Kingsley (game-high 27 points) and one each by Dave Uhl (seven points), Billy Alfiere (six points, seven assists), and Ryan Angeloszek (14 points).
It was the start Woodland coach Tom Hunt desperately wanted to see after his team lost its last three games by double digits.
“We talked about intensity in practice,” Hunt said. “We needed to come out right from the start and get up on somebody. We did a lot of the little things. We don’t press a lot but we thought we could take advantage of them with the press, and we did a good job with it.”
Angeloszek hit another 3-pointer early in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 31-14, but the Hawks started hoisting shots from long-range more often than Hunt wanted because soon they stopped falling. There was an easy fix to what amounted to a minor error in an impressive performance.
“[3-point shooting] adds a lot, but you can have that false sense of security when you start settling for shots,” Hunt said. “Our coaching staff did a good job of talking to them when they started settling instead of moving the ball around and getting good looks, and we started seeing better shots.”
Woodland didn’t let up in the third quarter, taking a 41-16 halftime lead and adding 23 more points to make it a 64-25 game.
The star of the quarter was Kirk Chamenko, who scored all nine of his points in the period. Chamenko hit layups, jumpers, and free throws, and added a few boards and a stiff block for good measure to fire up Woodland’s white-clad student section.
“He had the opportunity to play tonight and he really played well,” Hunt said. “The coaching staff has seen him play well at the JV level lately and he got some time tonight. He was the beneficiary of some really good passes underneath the basket and played with intensity on the defensive end. I think he wanted to prove us wrong a little bit.”
Plenty of reserves saw time in the fourth quarter as 11 players ended up making at least one basket. The victory finally gave the Hawks their eighth in their fourth attempt to nab it. That means a return to the state tournament for the third year in a row, but there’s more work to do if Woodland wants to make the Naugatuck Valley League tourney again.
“We talked in the locker room about finally getting the eighth win,” Hunt said. “Now that we’ve got it, we need to come out and play hard in the last three games to improve our seed, and we’re still in a dogfight to get into the NVL tournament.”