WATERBURY – Late in the Woodland boys’ 72-63 loss to Wilby Tuesday night, a spectator summarized the foul-ridden contest in a ridiculous yet somehow accurate manner.
“It’s like we went to a fight and a basketball game broke out,” the fan said.
No, there weren’t any brawls or fisticuffs, nary a technical foul or ejection. But there were 50 fouls assessed in the tightly officiated and sometimes offensively ugly game. Those infractions certainly didn’t help the Hawks’ front line, especially in the second half.
Wilby broke a 31-31 tie early in the third quarter and finished the period on a 22-8 run to take a 53-39 lead, allowing the Wildcats (4-5) to coast to their first win since Dec. 23.
Wilby’s Lemar Larson dominated the post after the break, scoring most of his team-high 19 points in the second half on layups and put-backs.
“The kid Lemar [Larson] took over in the second half,” Woodland coach Tom Hunt said. “He was part of our game plan and we wanted to check him on the glass. In the third period, we didn’t keep him off the boards.”
The Wildcats went on two separate runs within their 22-8 spurt in the third period to help put the game out of reach. Wilby went on an 8-0 run in less than two minutes to pull ahead, 39-31, before going on a 7-0 run to close the quarter with a 14-point lead.
Most of the damage came via Larson and the Wilby interior, which had the advantage when Woodland starters Ian Bures and Sean Deegan were plagued early and often with foul trouble.
“We were in foul trouble all game,” Hunt said. “Some of the guys tried to play a little passive because of their foul issues which is something we don’t usually do. We needed to do a better job on defense. We shut down their interior in the first half and didn’t in the second.”
Neither Hunt nor most of those in attendance felt the game was unfairly officiated—the fouls were called in a pretty even split—but the ticky-tacky nature of the whistles didn’t play to Woodland’s strong points.
“If it’s going to be a game that’s called kind of tight, we’re going to have to go deeper on our bench which is something that doesn’t suit the Woodland style of basketball,” Hunt said. “But we’re going to have to adapt to these types of games. I thought the officials were consistent all game, but we’re going to have to get used to that kind of officiating.”
The Hawks held their own throughout the first half, holding the lead twice in the second quarter and trailing, 29-27, at halftime. Yahmad Rountree (game-high 21 points) helped trim the Wilby lead to two just before the break by hitting five of six free throw attempts.
Rahmi Rountree and Ryan Angeloszek were also effective on the offensive end, scoring 15 and 14 points, respectively. But Woodland missed costly layups and went 18 of 31 (58 percent) at the line.
Freshman Tanner Kingsley saw significant time again as the team’s sixth man and scored nine points, showing his growing comfort with the Woodland offense.
“He’s shown that he’s starting to learn where his shots are supposed to come from,” Hunt said. “He’s not forcing any shots and they’re coming naturally.”
After a hot, 5-1 start, the Hawks have lost two straight and will look to snap the short losing streak Friday when they host Seymour, which won its first game of the season in a 67-56 decision over Derby on Tuesday.
“The [state] tournament is our first goal and we have five wins now before the midseason point,” Hunt said. “We have Seymour on Friday so we’re going to have to make sure we play the Hawk style of basketball. No games are going to be easy in the NVL and we have to understand that.”