BY KYLE BRENNAN
With a few better breaks throughout the year, Woodland boys basketball coach John Mariano thinks his Hawks’ season could have looked a lot different.
“I really thought as a whole we played good basketball, played like a team, and played tough,” Mariano said a few days after Woodland’s season ended. “The story of our season was that we lost a lot of close games and the ball didn’t always bounce our way.”
Woodland, which earned the No. 23 seed in the Division IV state tournament, finished with an 8-13 record after losing to No. 10 Morgan, 67-50, in the first round March 7.
The Hawks dug a 22-6 hole after the first quarter and never recovered. Brady Anderson led the team with 13 points, while Croy Mastropietro and Robby Moriarty added 10 apiece.
Despite the sour ending, Woodland won two of its last three regular-season games to qualify for the state tournament. The Hawks were streaky all season – they lost two straight at the start of the year, followed by streaks of three wins and three losses. Two of those losses came right after a two-week pause in the program due to COVID-19.
Later in the year, Woodland reeled off a 3-1 stretch, followed by five straight defeats prior to the last-ditch effort to make the playoffs.
“We started a little slow, then we turned it on, then [there was] the COVID pause, and then we basically had to restart,” Mariano said. “It’s tough to go through that, but sports teaches life, and that’s a life lesson. It doesn’t always go your way, and you’ve always gotta bounce back. Our kids did a terrific job of doing that, staying positive, and staying together. They didn’t let that ruin the season.”
Mariano attributed some of that resilience to the team’s five seniors: Anderson, Mastropietro, Moriarty, Nate Bodnar, and Jonathan Henry. They were sophomores when Mariano was hired three years ago.
“In a way, we grew up together,” Mariano said. “When I met them, they were young kids, and now they’re young adults. They’ve become better basketball players, but they’ve grown as people, as well. They showed up every single day this year with a positive mindset, ready to work, and were good teammates. We’re definitely going to miss their focus and their willingness to try to work together to get better each day.”
The coach hopes to continue building upon the postseason experiences of the last few seasons.
“Moving onward, the expectation is to get to the postseason,” Mariano said. “We’ll be holding that as a goal moving forward and continuing that brand of basketball of playing fast, and playing tough defense.”
BY KYLE BRENNAN