BEACON FALLS — Ask Woodland girls basketball coach Jess Moffo to talk about senior center Andrea Piccolo, and be prepared for a long conversation full of gushing.
“She’s been the face of Woodland girls basketball for the last three years,” Moffo said. “Her pure competitiveness, leadership and demeanor — she brings a totally different element to practice that most other teams in this league don’t have. She wants the pressure and she wants the challenge.”
Piccolo has been the Hawks’ go-to player for the last three seasons. She cracked the starting lineup her freshman year with one of the best teams in school history. Woodland made a run to the 2011 Class M quarterfinals with a team that included Heather Framski, the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“It was crucial,” Piccolo said of playing with that team. “Without them I wouldn’t really be where I am today. (Framski) taught me how to work hard and always put in 100 percent.”
Moffo, who was an assistant coach with that squad, saw the importance of Piccolo’s freshman experience surrounded by four seniors in the starting lineup.
“The pressure wasn’t on her,” Moffo said. “For her to come in as a freshman and get to play with players like Heather Framski, Lindsay Feducia, Kate Tuckey and Kelsey Deegan, she was just able to do her thing. It helped her confidence and she learned. That team was just amazing, and she came in at a good time.”
Now the shoe is on Piccolo’s other foot as the only senior in a starting lineup filled with underclassmen. Although the wins have been tough to come by for Woodland, which fell to 3-13 on Tuesday with a loss to Wolcott that eliminated the Hawks from postseason contention, Piccolo has taken seriously her role as a team leader.
“I just want to help them as much as I can while I’m here,” said Piccolo, who holds a scoring average of 12.9 points per game this season. “I want to teach them everything I know so that they can do well while they’re here.”
Moffo goes even a step further.
“She’s my coach on the floor,” Moffo said. “She’s doing what Heather did for her during her freshman year. When she sees something, she’ll tell them. She’s a true leader. I remember watching her in sixth grade and she was a leader. She leads us in every practice and every game, and I think that’s her best quality. She doesn’t want to fail on or off the court.”
Although this season has been a tough one, it hasn’t come without highlights. Piccolo led the Hawks to a 35-32 overtime win at Naugatuck in January. She sent the game to overtime with a buzzer-beating put-back and hit a pair of free throws in the extra stanza to earn the win.
Piccolo has also been able to spend her final year wearing black and gold with her younger sister, Carla, joining her in the starting lineup. Carla averages 6.7 points per game as a sophomore.
“It’s awesome,” Andrea said. “It’s special. We work really well together so it’s natural.”
As the season draws to a close over the next week and a half, Piccolo said the emotions will start to hit as she plays her final competitive basketball games. She hopes to attend UConn and will limit her basketball to intramurals.
“I’m really sad, honestly,” Piccolo said. “I’ll never be able to play high school basketball again, but it’s been a good four years. I can’t really complain.”
Moffo might even get more emotional. The Hawks will host Ansonia on Friday before visiting Watertown on Tuesday. Senior night is set for Feb. 13 against Seymour.
“I love her,” Moffo said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen on senior night because I’m going to miss the girl. I wish I had four more years with her.”