BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys basketball team is switching gears this season. The Hawks are working on their transition game, as opposed to the typical half court set, to implement a run-and-gun style to energize their offense.
Woodland finished 4-16 last season and missed the postseason for the second year in a row. Problems surfaced on both sides of the court as the offense sputtered at times, scoring in the 40s or lower in 11 games. On the defensive side the effort was split. The Hawks held their opponents in the 50s or less in eight games, while giving up 70 or more points in eight other.
Woodland head coach Tom Hunt, who is entering his 10th season at the helm, is hoping that the new look will serve the Hawks well as they aim to get back to the postseason.
“This year we are going to put more emphasis on getting the ball up and down the floor,” Hunt said. “We want to stay away from the half court sets where opponents can take advantage of our size. Try and keep them from pounding the ball over the middle and in the process control the tempo of the game.”
Senior captains Rich Rousseau and Adem Rifati bring the most experience to the court for the Hawks. They will be supported by a strong senior cast, including Joe Witkowski, Dylan Sender, Brendan Rowley, Alex Rindos, Zachary Marquis and Joshua DePalma.
Sophomore Zack Bedryczuk returns as the team’s leading scorer and will team up with sophomore Justin Marks in the Hawks starting lineup. Juniors Kyle Macek and Leonardo Vargas along with sophomore Ryan Swanson will also see varsity time for Woodland.
“We have two returning starters from last year,” Hunt said. “We have Zack (Bedryczuk), who really developed into a scorer for us, and we have Rich (Rousseau), a real high intensity guy who can get up and down the floor pretty quick.
“Justin (Marks) is another young guy who will be looked on to bring the ball up court for us and is the frontrunner to take over the point guard position for us. We do bring back eight seniors, maybe with not that much experience, but they will provide leadership.”
JV coach Mike Kingsley and new freshman coach Edmund Saunders, who won a national title at UConn and played at Holy Cross High School, are hard at work putting the Hawks through the paces.
“We have realistic expectations of making the eight wins to qualify for the states,” Hunt said. “I’m really looking forward to having coach Kingsley back and a former player, Mike Abate, who just came on staff.
“But we also have Edmund Saunders, who is the only guy around who has won a national championship in college. He brings a wealth of experience and it’s been a pleasure to have him come in here and the kids look up to him. He’s quoted coach (Jim) Calhoun a couple of times already on how hard they need to play, so we are looking for that to carry over to what we are trying to do this season.”
What the Hawks are trying to do is pick up the pace.
“My father always says that 90 percent of the rebounds are had below the rim,” Hunt said. “So if we do the right things and box out hopefully we will get our share of the boards. Especially if we come out and play an up tempo game that shouldn’t be a factor where teams can pick us apart with that half court game.”
The Hawks will get the season under way on Dec. 20 when they host St. Paul. Woodland will travel to Seymour on Dec. 22 to complete the first week of the season.