By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — It had been nearly a decade since the Woodland girls basketball team last hosted a state tournament game, but the Hawks managed to achieve one of the goals Jess Moffo and her squad set at the beginning of the year — and they even one-upped it.
Woodland earned the No. 8 seed in the Class M tournament and ended up hosting two games. After holding off No. 25 Valley Regional, 54-48, in the first round March 2, the Hawks saw their season end in a 52-43 loss to No. 9 Cromwell in the second round March 5.
The Hawks’ 15-8 record and home game for the second round marked their best season since a trip to the 2011 Class M quarterfinals.
“We all came out together as a better team this year,” Woodland sophomore forward Kylie Bulinski said. “We were not expecting to host two home games (in the state tournament), but we all worked hard to get to this point.”
Bulinski scored a team-high 17 points with 11 rebounds in the Hawks’ 54-48 win over Valley Regional. Gabby Mastropietro added 16 points with six steals, while Andra Bojka had seven points. Ava DeLucia and Jill Barbarito contributed five apiece, and Riley Kane had four.
In Woodland’s second-round loss to Cromwell, the defending Class M state champion, the Hawks clawed back from a nine-point halftime deficit and had several chances in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game but fell short.
Kane checked in with her best game of the season, netting a game-high 16 points. Barbarito had 12 in the final game of her high school career, while Bojka had six and Bulinski and DeLucia scored four each.
Despite the loss, Bulinski looks on this season as an important building block for the program and a sign that the Hawks’ hard work is paying off.
“Every day we were in the gym working hard, just trying to beat the next team,” Bulinski said. “We wanted to work better as a team to try to win a state championship and get better for the years to come.”
Most of the team will return next season. Woodland will have to replace the versatility of Barbarito and the leadership of Katie Sirowich, both of whom will graduate.
“They definitely helped us on and off the court many times,” Bulinski said. “It will be a big loss, but next year we’re going to come back even better and try to make a big run.”