By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
The distinctive sound of basketballs bouncing off hardwood courts could be heard in high school gymnasiums across the state again as the winter sports season got underway.
The CIAC allowed winter sports practices to begin Jan. 19 with some sports allowed to compete starting Feb. 8. In the Naugatuck Valley League, competitions will begin Feb. 16.
The Naugatuck and Woodland boys and girls basketball teams are back on the court and preparing for a season unlike any other. While players adjust to the precautions put in place, like wearing masks while playing, just being on the court is a win.
“The guys are just happy to be back on the court right now,” Naugatuck boys coach Mike Wilson said. “As much as I’m a competitor, this is a different year, that’s the way I’m approaching it.
“We just want to make sure we give them an opportunity to play — that is the main goal. We can’t be too concerned with the X’s and O’s. It’s a little different practicing with the masks on. We haven’t even had the full team out there yet, but it’s nice just to be out there.”
The Woodland girls are excited to continue their development after hosting a state tournament game last season for the first time in over a decade.
“I think we are past that learning curve,” Woodland girls coach Jess Moffo said. “I had a lot of younger players get valuable varsity time last year and they are looking forward to taking it up a notch.”
“I think they are adjusting well to what we have to do with the guidelines and restrictions that are in place,” she continued. “I’m happy that our only varsity senior, Ava DeLucia, is able to get a senior season. Just being back on the court is a victory in itself.”
The Woodland boys were ready to play in the state tournament last season, then the postseason was shut down due to the pandemic. It’s been a long wait for the Hawks, but being back on the court is a relief for the players who are eager to pick up where they left off.
“Getting back in the gym is one of the best feelings one can ask for,” Woodland senior Nathaniel Smith said. “This is the first time in my life that a basketball season hasn’t started on time.”
“It’s a relief to be back on the court,” he added. “Being around the guys who are going to push you to be better day in and day out works as an escape from some of the things happening in the world today.”
First-year Naugatuck girls head coach Adam Purcaro is as eager as his girls to show the Greyhounds got game.
“This will certainly be a learning experience this year,” Purcaro said. “They will learn to get better every day and I will learn as well, being a new coach and never having coached at the high school level before.”
“The girls are working hard,” he added. “They are excited to be back in the gym. We did a lot of Zoom meetings so they know how I operate. I think those meetings were very beneficial allowing us to get on the court and start going to work.”