Woodland boys clinch postseason berths

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BY KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
The Woodland boys basketball team has been firing on all cylinders recently, and they clinched a pair of postseason berths in the process. The Hawks struggled through the first half with a 3-7 record but in the second half of the season they have become a very competitive bunch, going 5-4.
Woodland hammered Oxford, 89-50, to clinch spots in the NVL and state tournaments. The Hawks (8-11 as of Feb. 15) are in the postseason for the first time in three years. It’s also the first appearance in the postseason under head coach Ryan Sullivan. Woodland was scheduled to close the regular season on Feb. 20 against Oxford.
“We want to be playing our best ball in February and March,” said Sullivan. “We have really come a long way since December and we are starting to put together four solid quarters.”
The Hawks have shown just how far they have come earning a 65-49 win over Derby on Feb. 6 after dropping an overtime game to them in the sixth contest of the season.
Trailing 25-24 at the half, the Hawks flew out in the third quarter with a 23-14 advantage to take the lead. They closed the door on the victory with an 18-10 fourth quarter.
Dean Accetura knocked down 27 points to lead the way to victory. The sensational sophomore duo of James Scampolino (17 points) and John Napiello (13) put the Hawks over the top.
“The younger kids are really stepping up,” said Sullivan. “The development of our two sophomores is starting to make a difference. I have asked the kids to step up and they have been giving 110%.”
In a Feb. 9 game against Wilby, Woodland busted out to a 24-7 first quarter advantage. The Wildcats battled back and secured a come-from-behind 71-58 win, dropping the Hawks to 7-11 on the season.
“We got out to an early lead and we were without our big guy Ethan Stepputtis,” said Sullivan. “Once again the kids stepped up. Billy Untiet started for Stepputtis and did a great job.”
Even in a setback Woodland made some noise against a very strong Wilby team. Accetura led the way with 15 points. Napiello (14) and Scampolino (12) also scored in double digits for the Hawks.
What is making all the difference is a bench that includes William DeLucia (seven points), Untiet (five), Marcus Estes (two), Evan Mastropietro (two) and Markelle Brown (two).
“Once you get into the tournament anything can happen,” said Sullivan. “And I like the way we are playing, not giving up and going the full four quarters. We have shown good progress in the second half and we are looking to have that carry us into the postseason.”
There will be plenty of competition at the upcoming NVL tournament led by defending champion WCA, followed closely by Crosby with Holy Cross and Wilby right behind. Ansonia, Torrington Naugatuck and St. Paul are all around the same record, and by the looks of it, don’t count out Woodland.