Hawks make run at Crusaders after slow start

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Woodland’s Cameron Caswell (21) leads the fast break Tuesday in Beacon Falls as RaShana Siders (24) of Holy Cross looks to cut off her path to the basket. Woodland fell to the Crusaders, 50-33. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Cameron Caswell (21) leads the fast break Tuesday in Beacon Falls as RaShana Siders (24) of Holy Cross looks to cut off her path to the basket. Woodland fell to the Crusaders, 50-33. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team had trouble starting and finishing Tuesday night against undefeated Holy Cross. But for most of the game, the Hawks stood toe to toe with the Naugatuck Valley League’s best team.

Woodland closed its deficit to as few as four points late in the third quarter but couldn’t get any closer as Holy Cross pulled away for a 50-33 victory.

It wasn’t a bad outcome after it took nearly 10 minutes for Woodland (1-6) to score its first field goal of the night, which came at the 6:03 mark of the second quarter when Andrea Piccolo converted a three-point play. The Hawks trailed 15-5 after one, and all five points came from the free throw line. Holy Cross also made 13 steals in the first half, including seven in the first quarter, thanks to a tough full-court press.

“We struggled,” Woodland coach Jess Moffo said of her team’s first 10 minutes. “We had a couple quality looks, but I think we get too caught up in the moment and it takes us a few minutes. We’re young, so once we settle down and collect ourselves, we’re fine.”

The Hawks actually outplayed the 7-0 Crusaders throughout the middle two periods. Woodland closed what was a 14-point deficit late in the second to make it a 27-16 game at halftime, and the Hawks opened the third quarter on an 11-4 run to make it a 31-27 game.

Cameron Caswell (nine points) buried a pair of jumpers to start the third and Piccolo later converted a pair of layups to pull Woodland within four with about two minutes left in the period.

“We were relentless,” Moffo said. “They don’t back down and they aren’t scared of anyone. They do everything I ask them to do, and I can’t ask anything more of them. We got it back to within four, and against a quality team like Holy Cross, that says something.”

Piccolo finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds, both team-highs.

Woodland’s Andrea Piccolo (22) drives to the hoop as Holy Cross’ Caitlin Cipriano (33) defends Tuesday night in Beacon Falls. The Hawks fell to the Crusaders, 50-33. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Andrea Piccolo (22) drives to the hoop as Holy Cross’ Caitlin Cipriano (33) defends Tuesday night in Beacon Falls. The Hawks fell to the Crusaders, 50-33. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“I don’t think Andrea Piccolo gets any credit in this league,” Moffo said. “Without her, we’re not even in this game. She busts her butt and is always among the league’s top scorers. She’s great on the boards, is the heart and soul on the defense and is like my coach on the floor.”

Woodland’s defense continued to apply pressure early in the fourth and held Cross off the scoreboard for more than two minutes to start the quarter. The Hawks, though, couldn’t convert offensively and eventually Holy Cross pulled away with a 13-0 run.

“We made four stops in a row and we couldn’t convert,” Moffo said. “If we can make a few hoops, we can tie the game or take the lead. We just couldn’t do it. I’m not a coach who likes moral victories, but we didn’t quit. They had the game in hand but we made a run.”

Carla Piccolo tacked on eight points and six rebounds for Woodland while Jen Triana had four points and six boards. Prospect’s Melissa Grocki scored four points for Holy Cross, which was led by Chelsea Houlihan (17 points).

Woodland will host Watertown, the league’s other top contender, on Thursday. The Hawks will visit Naugatuck on Saturday and stay on the road Tuesday at Seymour.

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