Hawks fall short in battle with Cats

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Woodland's Shannon Meany (10) drives to the basket past Seymour's Cindy Ferrell (24) during their game Tuesday at Seymour High School. –RA ARCHIVE

SEYMOUR — Opponents may be thinking it’s a walk in the park after viewing the Woodland girls record. They may be right if they are referring to being chased through Central Park. Head coach Jess Moffo has the Lady Hawks playing like a team deserving of a post-season appearance.

In spite of a 4-14 record Woodland went into Seymour on senior night to take on a team that needed one more win to qualify for the state tournament and pushed the Wildcats around before running out of steam in the fourth period. Ultimately, Woodland fell to the Wildcats in a hard-fought 42-35 decision.

“It certainly didn’t matter to us what their record was,” Seymour head coach Brian Cleveland said. “This has turned into a good rivalry and Woodland in spite of its record is a very good basketball team. We knew we had our work cut out for us and they proved that with the way they played.”

Woodland’s Alma Rizvani splits a pair of Seymour defenders as she drives to the hoop Tuesday night at Seymour High School. –KEN MORSE

All five Woodland starters found their way into the scorebook in what proved to be an up-and-down first period. Alma Rizvani (four points, three assists) ducked between two defenders and raced through the lane for a bucket.

Carolyn Mariotti (12 rebounds, eight points, five assists) established herself in the paint scoring on a baseline drive to give the Hawks a 9-6 lead with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Seymour put together a run led by Christine Cretella (20 points) to take the lead. The Cats’ pressure defense created four turnovers on three steals but it did little to slow down the Hawks.

Woodland was passing the ball around looking for the high percentage shot with four players lending assists. Time was running out in the period when Nicole Fowler split a pair of defenders with a bounce pass on the baseline. Andrea Piccolo (seven points, seven rebounds) threw it in off the window and Woodland took an 11-10 advantage into the second period.

“It was their senior night and they needed one more win to qualify,” Moffo said. “Cretella is a great player and I tried to impress on the girls they we needed to come out and be ready to play.”

Seymour kept at it and got some luck in the second period as they grabbed the lead at the buzzer to end the first half 21-19.

Woodland’s Brianna Pacileo (15) looks for an open teammate Tuesday night against Seymour. –KEN MORSE

Mariotti went hard to the glass for a pair of buckets to give Woodland a 17-14 lead in the second. But when Fowler (6 points) tried to line up a three from the top of the key the ball bounced high off the rim and through the basket only to be disallowed for hitting the top of the backboard on the way down.

The Wildcats caught their second break when Cretella launched a half-court three at the buzzer and it ricocheted off the backboard and through the net to put Seymour out in front.

At the midway point of the third period the Cats’ pressure defense finally got to the Hawks as Woodland turned it over on two straight possessions. The consecutive turnovers paved the way for Seymour to open up a five-point advantage at 30-25.

“We tried to rotate the ball to the weak side in the second half,” Moffo said. “But Seymour turned up the pressure coming up with steals and we turned it over too many times.”

Shannon Meany dropped in a pair of shots from the corner to keep the Woodland within striking distance. Brianna Pacileo dished it off to Rizvani for a rainbow shot at the top of the key and the Hawks were hanging in trailing 34-31 entering the final period.

Woodland’s Nicole Fowler (23) drives the lane Tuesday night against Seymour. –KEN MORSE

Both teams struggled down the stretch going scoreless for two and a half minutes. Cretella threw down five of the Wildcats eight points in the fourth period as Seymour stayed out in front.

Fowler knocked down a shot in the lane with 51 seconds left for only the Hawks’ second basket in the period as Seymour escaped with a 42-35 win.

Woodland will finish up the season with home games on Friday against Derby and next Tuesday versus Ansonia.