By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team has been to the semifinals of the Naugatuck Valley League tournament before in program history, but making the run this year certainly was a giant step forward for a young team.
The Hawks’ run ended March 24 in the semifinals, where undefeated Holy Cross earned a 64-48 win. But the standard has been raised for the Hawks, who finished the season 10-5.
“You look back at the last three years and we certainly have raised the bar,” Woodland head coach Jess Moffo said. “To go 10-5, especially in a season like this, says a lot about the character, their work ethic and their heart. We came out and took another step forward.”
Casey Mulligan scored a game-high 25 points for the Hawks against Holy Cross. Kylie Bulinski scored eight and Riley Kane had seven.
Woodland reached the final four with victories over Watertown, 60-47, in the opening round on March 20 and Sacred Heart, 46-40, in the quarterfinals on March 22. Kane led the Hawks over Watertown with 19 points and Ava DeLucia added 12 points. Mulligan scored a game-high 18 points in the win over the Hearts.
“The girls had their minds made up that we were going to beat Sacred Heart and play for the semifinals,” Moffo said. “I made a change at the last minute going into the Sacred Heart game. I was going to go with a 2-3 defense and decided to go with a 1-3-1 and we got out to an 18-4 lead, and that was the difference in the game.”
The Hawks’ transition to a league competitor began three seasons ago when Moffo ushered in a group of freshmen that has built the core of the squad. Last season, the team reached the NVL tournament for the first time since 2017 and hosted a pair of state tournament games for the first time in over a decade.
Woodland entered the season with one senior, Ava DeLucia, and four juniors, Bulinski, Kane, Andra Bojka and Gabby Mastropietro, to lead the way. Sophomores Samantha Sosnovich and Olivia Rodriguez and freshmen Ireland Starziski and Isabella Mastropietro provided scoring off the bench for the Hawks.
Moffo also had former 1,000-point scorer Heather Framski, who played on the last team that went to the NVL semifinals in 2011, come back to Woodland as an assistant coach.
“We went 8-for-25 at the foul line in the Holy Cross game,” Moffo said. “There are still things we need to improve on, but I like where we are and what we have coming back.”
What the Hawks have coming back is a lot scoring, led by Mulligan. The freshman’s development was a pleasant surprise this season and she led the team with 201 points.
Kane (132 points) came on strong over the last five games, leading the team in scoring three times. Bojka (101 points), Bulinski (80 points) and Mastropietro (60 points) are among the nine returning players who saw varsity action this season.
The Hawks will miss DeLucia, who scored 108 points this season and was a consistent double-double threat. After the Hawks started the season 1-2, it was the leadership of players like DeLucia, Bojka and Bulinksi that sparked a four-game win streak.
“That really turned things around for us,” Moffo said about the win streak. “It showed us what we can accomplish. I think once we got that team chemistry going our confidence grew. We are certainly looking forward to next season and take another step forward.”