WATERBURY — For as hard as the Woodland girls basketball team played in Saturday’s Naugatuck Valley League tournament quarterfinal win over Seymour, coach Gail Cheney thought something was lacking in the Hawks’ 72-48 loss to Torrington in Monday’s semifinals.
“We were lazy,” Cheney said after Woodland lost to the Raiders in the semifinals for the second-straight year. “I told the girls, ‘What hurts more, getting smacked in the face or getting punched in the face? If you get punched in the face, it hurts a lot more.’”
To help with the comparison, the No. 3-seeded Hawks (16-6) were smacked in the face at times during their opening-round matchup with No. 6 Seymour (13-8) on Saturday at Holy Cross High. But Woodland kept smacking back, led by Lindsay Feducia (22 points) and Heather Framski (16 points). Framski hit the game-winning jumper in the final minute to lead her team to a 54-52 win.
Monday night at Kennedy High, the Hawks took a few smacks to the face in the first half before suffering the knockout punch in the third quarter.
Torrington outscored Woodland, 23-10, in the third period to take a 54-31 lead and cruise to another NVL title game Wednesday night against No. 1 Holy Cross.
The Hawks were beaten in every phase of the game in the last 22 minutes of the contest. They were dominated in the post. Pass after pass was telegraphed. Shots clanged off the rim for the Black and Gold while the No. 2-ranked Raiders (21-1) got hot.
Torrington went on a 10-2 run over a stretch of 2:10 in the second quarter to open up a 27-17 lead. Woodland couldn’t get any closer than eight points for the rest of the night.
The Hawks, who are usually strong inside, were pushed around and allowed Taylor Christiano (game-high 27 points) to grab rebounds and make put-backs seemingly at will. Sarah Royals (19 points) changed the pace with some drives and jumpers, adding to the effective attack that kept Woodland on its heels.
Cheney was still trying to figure out why her team’s defense turned in its worst effort of the season.
“I think maybe we were a little tired after Saturday’s game,” Cheney said. “I don’t know. It looked like maybe we were a little intimidated or nervous. I don’t know. We were a half-step too slow.”
To add to the misery, only three Woodland players scored more than two points. Predictably, Framski led the team with 22 points while Feducia added 15. Kate Tuckey was the only other Hawk to score more than a bucket as she contributed seven points.
“You can’t win with just two players,” Cheney said. “Tonight, we put everything on Heather’s and Lindsay’s shoulders. You can’t win games like that.”
The Hawks will have to regroup after the disappointing loss as they head into the Class M state tournament next week. Woodland is the No. 10 seed and will host No. 23 Waterford (12-8) Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The winner will play either No. 7 Sacred Heart (15-6) or No. 26 Classical Magnet (11-9) Friday at 7 p.m.
Woodland has won just one state tournament game in program history, an 85-42 win over Prince Tech in 2005. This will be the first time the Hawks are hosting a tourney game since 2008, when they lost as a No. 16 seed to No. 17 Berlin in the Class M first round.
Cheney said her team will need to improve on both ends of the court in a short amount of time in order to earn a tournament win.
“We have to work on our rebounding,” Cheney said. “Other people have to contribute besides those two players. I think there are a lot of players on the team that want to step up and do it, but we have to see it.”