BEACON FALLS — Woodland boys basketball isn’t known for having a clutch gene or pulling out tough victories in the last minutes. The Hawks might be changing that reputation quickly.
For the second time in eight days, Woodland gritted out a game that was well in doubt into the final seconds by holding off Naugatuck, 55-53, Tuesday night in Beacon Falls.
Yahmad Rountree sank two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining for the Hawks, after he was fouled pulling down a rebound in traffic.
Mick Pernell just missed a buzzer-beater on the ensuing possession as his fadeaway three-pointer from 22 feet clanged off the back iron to help the Hawks to their fourth win in a row and drop the Greyhounds to 0-4.
Woodland coach Tom Hunt credits his team’s toughness compared to similar situations in the past for being able to pull out the win.
“The kids didn’t have that panic in their eyes when they knew we were going to foul and either way we were going to be down a possession,” Hunt said. “At the end I thought we were going to have an opportunity to score and we did, it just happened after Yahmad pulled down the big rebound and hit the free throws like the warrior he is.”
The Hounds led, 53-51, with less than two minutes to go after Brandon Kaczenski grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a putback, something that he and Dan Bronko did several times in the fourth period.
Tanner Kingsley hit one of two free throws on Woodland’s next trip down the floor, forcing the Hawks to foul with 50 seconds left. Naugy missed the front end of a one-and-one before Yahmad Rountree (game-high 19 points) was fouled and split a pair at the line to tie the game at 53 with 28.2 seconds to play.
Naugatuck trailed for most of the first quarter and all of the second and third periods before finally taking the lead on a layup by Kaczenski (team-high 18 points) with 7:19 to play in the fourth.
The final quarter was a back-and-forth affair, featuring three ties and six lead changes, with neither team taking more than a two point advantage.
Woodland dominated from midway through the first until just before the half. The Hawks went on a 14-4 run to close the first quarter and take a 20-11 lead, thanks to nine of Rahmi Rountree’s 16 points in the period.
The Hawks led by as many as 15 halfway through the second, helped by the Rountrees as well as Ryan Angeloszek (eight points) and Ian Bures (six points).
But the Greyhounds responded well to the large deficit, trimming Woodland’s lead to seven at the half on a 25-foot buzzer-beater by Pernell.
Naugatuck outscored Woodland, 13-7, in the third quarter to pull within 43-42 heading into the last period.
“It got away from us a little in the third quarter when Naugatuck tuned it up a notch,” Hunt said. “I don’t think that we responded right away. We gathered ourselves and I thought we finished strong.”
Naugatuck coach Mike Wilson was proud of his team’s effort to get back into the game.
“At first I saw a lack of heart,” Wilson said. “We played with no passion, no enthusiasm. I kinda gave them a little love and they responded in the right way. We played hard. We gave ourselves a chance to win. That’s all I can ask from my boys.”
While the Greyhounds are still looking for their first win after a tough stretch to start the year, the Hawks find themselves atop the Naugatuck Valley League Brass Division with a 4-1 overall record and a 3-0 division mark.
“I feel really good about this team,” Hunt said. “One of the things that we had talked about was to impose our will when it comes to these games. The guys have responded. Role players have stepped up to do their jobs and we’re coming together as a team.”