WOLCOTT — Not too long ago, the Woodland boys basketball team sat at 7-9 and needed just one more win to qualify for the state tournament.
The Hawks had another agenda as they turned in their best performance of the season winning their final four games to qualify for the state tournament for the third consecutive season and reserving a spot the Naugatuck Valley League tournament in the process.
“We have put an awful lot of time in the gym at practice to prove we are a much better team than we were when the season started,” Woodland head coach Tom Hunt said. “Over the past four games we have been focusing on finishing the regular season strong. It has been evident in both our offense and defense.”
Woodland has been averaging 71 points per game and allowing just 51 points during the four-game winning streak to end the regular season at 11-9. It marks the second year in a row that Woodland has earned a spot in the NVL tournament.
Last Friday in Wolcott the red-hot Hawks showed the kind of team they have become as they blistered the nets in a 77-63 win over Wolcott.
The Hawks ruined the Eagles’ senior night festivities. Three Hawks topped the 20-point mark in a head-shaking performance.
Tanner Kingsley hit for 23 points with four rebounds and four steals. Billy Alfiere knocked down 23 points on the strength of five three-pointers. Ryan Angeloszek completed the trifecta scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
To complete the Woodland arsenal, Kirk Chamenko tore down nine rebounds, blocked two shots and threw in five points. David Uhl steered the offense dishing out nine assists as the Hawks were hot from behind the arc with eight three-pointers.
“We lost to Wolcott by 12 at our place earlier in the season. We didn’t want anything handed to us. We wanted to win in order to make the NVL tournament,” Hunt said. “We are not content with just showing up. We have every intention to be competitive regardless who we play.”
That purpose was clearly evident with the way the Hawks started out the game.
Angeloszek attacked the basket for eight points in the first period, including a three-pointer. Alfiere and Kingsley also torched the net with threes as Woodland broke out to a 17-10 advantage.
Dan Giacomazzi and Stephen Baeder supplied the defensive pressure for the Hawks to keep Wolcott under wraps.
Nick Japs and Joe Catalina both scored 20 for the Eagles, with Mike Bozzuto and Matt Cyr adding eight points each. But it was an uphill battle for Wolcott throughout the game.
The Eagles simply had no answer for the up-and-down-the-court, wide-open Woodland offense that continued to knock down shot after shot.
Alfiere threw down a pair of threes before the break. Chamenko challenged anyone with in an arms length in the paint as his runner in the lane and a baseline drive handed Woodland a comfortable 35-20 lead at the half.
“We talked about Wolcott’s height advantage before the game,” Hunt said. “Sometimes it’s not about being the tallest player out there. It’s about working hard, boxing out and putting yourself in the position to be successful.”
Working hard was one key ingredient but it certainly helped that seemingly every shot Woodland took rippled the net.
A 9-0 run to start the third period put Woodland on top by 20 and they finished the period with a 6-0 spurt as the lead grew to 57-36 heading into the final period.
Shane Classey knocked down a pair at the line and Steve LaChance hit a bucket in the paint as the Hawks hung another 20 points on the board in the final period for the final touches on the 77-63 win.