State tourney next for Naugatuck, Woodland girls hoop teams

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BY KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
The tenacity of the Naugatuck girls basketball team has paid off with a surprising home game in the first round of the Class L state tournament. Riding the emotional wave of a sustained losing streak and ready to pack away all hope till next season, the Naugy girls dug deep down and found some extra incentive, ripping off a five-game winning streak to salvage the season.
“All the credit goes to the girls, said Naugatuck co-coach Karl Evangelista. “They knew what was at stake and every game down the stretch was a win or go home type of game.
“They knew what they had to do and they went out and got it done. We couldn’t be prouder of what they accomplished. We have a chance to see what we can do in the states and are looking forward to the opportunity.”
For their efforts, the Greyhounds earned the No. 7 seed in the NVL tournament and battled the No. 2 seed Seymour Wildcats to the wire in a 63-53 loss Feb. 19. The Naugy girls, led by All-Iron Division seniors Kayleee Jackson and Kendall Allen along with seniors JJ Magalhaes, Saige Winslow, Jourdyn Brown and Alexis Robertson, banged the nails out and reached the postseason.
Naugatuck (10-11), ranked 14th, was scheduled to host No. 19 North Haven on Tuesday. The winner plays third-ranked Notre Dame-Fairfield and Naugatuck resident Sara Macary in the second round tonight.
The Woodland girls, under first-year coach Jenn Deeley, tied the program’s best regular season record, done originally in 2011, by going 15-5. The Hawks reached the semifinal game of the NVL tournament after knocking off Torrington 57-53 in the quarterfinals.
Sophomore Casey Mulligan fired in a game-high 25 points to lead the Hawks. Seniors Riley Kane (9 points), Andra Bojka (8) and Gabby Mastropietro (7) made their presence felt.
“We got to face Torrington, a tough opponent who beat us during the season,” said Deeley. “I thought the girls showed a great deal of resiliency throughout the game. We responded well down the stretch and kept our composure.”
The Hawks reached the NVL semifinals for just the third time in program history and had to take on Holy Cross, winners of 37 straight games. Woodland survived a rough and tumble first quarter but lost its grip in the second quarter on the way to a 74-44 loss. Sophomore Ireland Starziski launched five 3-pointers to lead the Hawks with 19 points. Kane added nine points and Bojka added eight points.
“I don’t think Holy Cross has lost a game in two years,” added Deeley. “Their pressure and depth put us in a tough position. Hopefully we can make some corrections over the next couple of days and go into Tuesday’s game in the state tournament well rested and ready to go.
“We have a solid starting five and in the state tournament it will come down to our role players coming in and giving us solid minutes. Hopefully we have given them the confidence during the season that they need to go out and give us those quality minutes.”
Woodland (16-6) is looking to go further than the 2011 Hawks, who reached the Class M state quarterfinals and finished 18-7 for the best mark in school history. The journey began for the No. 10 Hawks with a Class M first round matchup Tuesday against NVL foe Wolcott (9-11), the No. 23 team. The winner plays the winner of No. 7 Cromwell and No. 26 Lewis Mills on Friday at the site of the higher seed.