Seniors paved the way to postseason
BEACON FALLS — The game plan entering the season was for the young Hawks to follow senior captains Morina Bojka, Maddie Hupprich and Jenna Pannone and all will be well.
The Woodland trio led the team to the Class M state tournament, where the season ended Tuesday in the first round.
The No. 30-seeded Hawks fell to No. 3. Notre Dame of Fairfield, 48-30.
Bojka led the way scoring 19 points as Woodland (9-12) fell behind 28-16 at the half. A 10-5 third-quarter advantage for Woodland cut the deficit to 33-26 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Hawks 15-4 in the final quarter to put the game away.
Hupprich had five points and Eliza Smith added four points.
“We were prepared as we were going to be,” Woodland head coach Jess Moffo said. “The girls had a great week of practice. Our three seniors had everyone ready. Notre Dame is a very good team.”
“They didn’t want it to be their last game,” Moffo added. “In spite of taking on a third-ranked team we went into the game looking to win it. We worked on our defenses and new that Gabby Joseph was a threat, but Jenna (Pannone) does a great job underneath for us.”
Woodland’s No. 30 ranking in Class M could have been much higher. The Hawks lost six games by five points or less and seven games by a combined 16 points during the season.
“A missed layup, a missed free throw, a turnover at a crucial time, it wasn’t like we were out of those games,” Moffo said. “If we executed a little better we would be in a different spot right now.”
It was usually one quarter in a game that did the Hawks in, and in most cases it was precipitated by foul trouble to one of the three seniors. The Hawks struggled down the stretch going 2-6 over the final eight games leading up to the state tournament.
“Teams were double and triple teaming Morina all season long,” Moffo said. “We were in position to win almost every game we lost. It was just one little breakdown or a missed shot that was the difference between winning and losing.”
Woodland will have three big holes to fill in the lineup next season with the graduation of Morina Bojka, Hupprich and Pannone.
Morina Bojka, who surpassed 1,000 career points this season, led the team in scoring. Hupprich gave Woodland a consistent second offensive threat. Pannone battled on the boards to give the Hawks second and third chances at the basket.
The Hawks will come back strong with four solid juniors in Smith, Haley Andrews, Meg Sirowich and Cam Johnson. There will also be plenty of opportunities for junior Isabel Golia, sophomore Hana Bojka and freshman Jill Barbarito to take on bigger roles next season.
“Hana is only a sophomore but her strides from last year to this year have been great,” Moffo said. “She sees the court well and plays great defense and I’m not afraid to put her in there in any game situation.
“Jill is a freshman but has developed into a player as the year has gone on. She has good hands and great shot. Once she makes that adjustment and gets more physical she will be a big asset for us.”
Moffo sees potential in the team’s future.
“We lose three very special players who I will miss, but I’m excited about what we have coming back and the potential they have,” she said.