Season comes to a close for Centaurs in ECC quarters
The wins came in bunches for the Woodstock Academy boys basketball team this season.
Four in a row near the beginning of the season and four more, including three in a row, at the end.
Unfortunately for the Centaurs, the season came to a close on Thursday with a 73-43 loss to undefeated Norwich Free Academy in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I tournament quarterfinal game in Norwich.
“We battled adversity, injury and illness, and I would like to turn back the clock, but it brought us to where we are,” Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said.
The Centaurs finished up the season with an 8-14 overall record.
They shined, however, in the last game on their home floor.
Woodstock Academy, the eighth seed in the ECC tournament, downed Bacon Academy, a team that had defeated the Centaurs twice already this season, 74-44 on Wednesday.
“That felt amazing,” said senior Aidan Morin after the win. “That’s a team that we played twice and we know we could have beaten them twice, just as we did (Wednesday). To actually come through with it, play our best game, move the ball. The 1-3-1 (defense) worked perfectly.”
The Centaurs didn’t waste any time in jumping out to a lead on the Bobcats.
They scored the first 19 points in the game.
“It felt great and it really gave us a boost for the rest of the game,” junior guard Logan Talbot said.
Talbot (26 points) and Andrew Johnson (17) both had two 3-pointers in the early barrage against Bacon Academy.
“You don’t see shutouts like that, especially in the first quarter. I think that’s one of the biggest things we can take away from this game, how fast we came out and how aggressive our defense was,” Morin said.
Bacon Academy (6-15) scored its first basket with 2:12 left in the first quarter and it spurred seven unanswered points.
But the second quarter was a repeat of the first, much to the Bobcats’ dismay.
Woodstock Academy scored the first 13 points including six points from Morin (16 points) and five from Talbot.
“There was a lot more movement, a lot less 1-on-1 dribbling stuff, and it helped us a lot,” Talbot said.
The second run gave the Centaurs a 32-7 lead and they hung on to that 20-plus point lead at the half, going into the locker room with a 39-17 advantage.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with how we came out, brought the energy, and relied upon each other. They played team defense with confidence. We trust each other, work hard together and good things happen,” Hart said.
Prior to the game, Hart said for Woodstock Academy to be successful, it had to shoot well.
The Centaurs made 7-of-13 in the first quarter and 7-of-12 in the second.
“They have really been working on their footwork, and either catch-and-shoot or pass-and-cut. When we took the useless dribble out of the offense with a flat basketball, they started to get after it and started taking good shots within their range with confidence,” Hart said.
The Centaurs, as expected, did cool off a little in the third quarter.
Woodstock Academy was outscored, 17-14, and saw their lead slip to 19, 53-34.
But a 16-6 run through the first six minutes of the final quarter guaranteed the Centaurs the win.
It was a nice note for Morin and fellow seniors Efstathios Savvidis, Nick Bedard and Grayson Walley to go out on.
“This was the last game on my court. I know there was Senior Night, but this was really the last one. To finish both Senior Night (a 59-49 win over East Lyme) and this game with great results, it couldn’t get better than that,” Morin said.
It was a little tougher in Norwich.
The Wildcats (21-0) jumped on top early thanks to seven first quarter points each by Nolan Molkenthin (26 points) and Jared Martin (16).
NFA enjoyed the 22-7 lead after the first quarter and raised that to 18 points, 43-25, by the half.
Talbot again led the Centaurs with 11 points, Morin added nine.
Talbot, who transferred in from Holy Name High School in Worcester, MA., led Woodstock Academy in scoring this season with a 15.8 point per game average.
He also hit three 3-pointers against NFA, giving him 49 for the season.
“It was a good choice. I really love it here,” Talbot said. “Honestly, I didn’t expect to score over 15 points a game. I was just hoping to start.”
Talbot was named an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II first team All-Star (the Centaurs competed in Division II in the regular season. The league combines Division I and II for tournament play).
Morin was named an honorable mention All-Star while Walley was the team’s Scholar-Athlete award winner and sophomore Ethan Davis was given the team’s sportsmanship award.
Morin said the end of the season, with wins over Ledyard, East Lyme and Bacon Academy, may pay dividends in the future.
“This is good for next year. They saw what they are capable of. There are only four seniors and we didn’t do all the magic that we’ve come across in the last three games,” Morin said. “It’s all the guys stepping up, working hard, and it’s mostly happening in practice.”
Centaurs finish off regular season with 2 wins
The Woodstock Academy boys basketball team ended the regular season on a rather nice note.
The Centaurs captured a 59-49 win over East Lyme on Friday in their final regular season game.
That was preceded by a 70-66 win over Ledyard earlier in the week also at the Alumni Fieldhouse.
“This is huge,” Woodstock Academy senior Aidan Morin said after the win over East Lyme. “We had a rough season but to come back from all the adversity and beat two very good teams at home, it feels amazing. Last time we played these two teams, it was 10-to-15 point losses, to beat both these teams feels great for all of us.”
The win over the Vikings came on Senior Night.
Prior to the contest, the Centaurs honored Morin, Efstathios Savvidis, Grayson Walley and Nick Bedard for their contributions to the program.
“I’m going to miss them,” said Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart. “The results weren’t there but the integrity and character were, I really enjoyed being around them and they have passed it on to the next group. They are good players, good teachers, and have had a tremendous attitude through adversity. I appreciate that.”
The Centaurs (7-13) did something a little abnormal at the start of the East Lyme game.
Knowing their opponent’s ability to shoot the 3-pointer - which the Centaurs saw first-hand in a 51-39 loss just the week before- Hart decided to install a 1-3-1 defense to start the game.
“We had never run that defense. We put it in (Thursday) and repped it as much we could and we executed it (on Friday),” Morin said.
The defense caught East Lyme a bit off guard.
The Centaurs got some steals up top off of it which resulted in a couple of easy buckets for Logan Talbot.
The junior then found his outside shooting touch and added a couple of 3-pointers as he scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the first half.
Talbot’s second 3-pointer came with 2:51 left in the half and gave Woodstock Academy a 25-11 lead.
But East Lyme figured it out.
Chris Carpenteri (15 points) hit three 3-pointers in the final minutes of the half and Sujesh Kurumbail added a basket and the Centaurs lead was down to three, 25-22, by the time the two teams went into the locker room.
“It was frightening when they came back at the end of the first half,” Morin said.
East Lyme switched up its defense in the second half.
The Vikings began to pay much more attention to Talbot.
“Teams realize that really quick. They know he can shoot, they know what he’s capable of, so the second he starts hitting those, they go after him. That opens up opportunities for all of us,” Morin said.
In this case, himself and Bedard.
“We’re seniors. We’re not going to be here that much longer. It worked,” Morin said.
Bedard (11 points, 7 rebounds) scored five points early in the third quarter and Morin contributed six points at the end and the Centaurs held on to a 39-36 lead going into the final quarter.
“I appreciated that they really wanted the ball in their hands and wanted to take it to the basket. We thought they were getting good looks, but we just wanted them to take one or two more dribbles and get a better look at the basket or the foul call,” Hart said.
The Centaurs switched up the defense again in the fourth quarter, focusing more on Carpenteri and Nate Diaz (18 points) who combined for all 10 of the East Lyme 3-pointers.
The triangle-and-two look again paid off.
The Vikings took a few minutes to adjust and the Centaurs took advantage with a pair of baskets by Morin (17 points, 11 boards) and the only Talbot basket of the second half to go up, 46-38.
East Lyme got as close as four points, but the Centaurs made 9-of-14 free throws down the stretch to pick up the win.
Hart decided to take Morin out of the game just prior to the final buzzer, much to the senior’s dismay.
“I still got to play the majority of the game with a great team and to get the win on Senior Night, it feels so much better than a loss. Obviously, we’re not going to States, but to end the season on a great note like that, I will remember it for a while,” Morin said.
“When we’re at full strength and play to our strengths, we can do some exciting things. We struck to the game plan (Friday),” Hart said.
Due to injuries and illness, it has been a rare game when the Centaurs have had all of their components to call upon.
But it was the case earlier in the week as well.
The win over Ledyard was a meteoric shift compared to what happened on the Colonels home floor earlier in the season.
“When we went down to Ledyard, all three teams (including the freshmen and junior varsity) didn’t do so well and had a long bus ride home. On Tuesday, between the three teams, it was a 94-point swing; 62 points for the freshmen, 12 points for the JV and 20 for the varsity,” Hart said. “That kind of inconsistency is hard to explain, but we gave up 48 points in the paint down there and up here, we had a guy with a foot in the paint all game long.”
Talbot led the way with 30 points, his second 30-point effort of the season, while Morin (eight rebounds, four assists) and Ethan Davis added 12 each.
Despite the two late season victories, the Centaurs did not qualify for the CIAC Division IV state tournament.
But they will have some postseason play.
“We still have a chance at the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament. We proved ourselves in these last two games. I think we can do some damage,” Morin said.
The Centaurs will host Bacon Academy in an ECC tournament play-in game at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Bobcats have beaten the Centaurs twice this season.
“For us to host a postseason game is important for our families, our team and pride. We set it up nicely in that we have lost to them twice and, as coaches know, it’s tough to beat a team three times. But we’re going to have to take it at them because they are certainly capable and they, obviously, get geared up for us,” Hart said.
Centaurs dropped in Stonington
The Centaurs rain into a fired up Stonington team and could do little to stop the Bears in a 72-35 loss in Stonington on Friday night.
Ethan Davis led the Centaurs (5-13) with eight points while Logan Talbot and Nick Bedard added six points each.
East Lyme squeaks past Centaurs
Centaurs senior Aidan Morin had a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds, but the fell short in East Lyme, 51-39, Tuesday.
Andrew Johnson added 11 for the Centaurs who fell to 5-12 with the loss.
Chris Carpenteri led a balanced attack for East Lyme (6-11) with 10 points.
Centaurs break losing streak
It had been awhile.
The Woodstock Academy Centaurs boys basketball team last walked off the floor with a win on Jan. 13 when they downed Griswold to cap a four-game win streak.
The Centaurs finally got back on the right side of things on Saturday after an eight-game losing streak with a 67-62 overtime victory over Plainfield in Central Village.
“A win is a win is a win,” a relieved Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said. “We needed it just to keep the dream alive. We haven’t made it easy on ourselves. It’s been within reach and the (post) season is still within reach.”
The win raised the Centaurs record to 5-11.
It means they will have to win three of their last four to qualify for the CIAC Division IV state tournament.
Woodstock Academy travels to East Lyme and then Stonington on Tuesday and Friday of this week.
The Centaurs finish off the season at home against Ledyard on Feb. 18 and East Lyme again on Feb. 21.
They had to work for their win over the Panthers (6-8).
The game was close throughout.
Plainfield held the early 15-11 advantage after one quarter, but the Centaurs rallied to take the lead, 27-26, at the half.
Nick Bedard scored almost half of his team-high 15 points in the opening half, putting down seven while Ethan Davis added five of his 13.
Thanks to six more points each by Bedard and Logan Talbot (12 points), Woodstock Academy reeled off 19 points in the third quarter, only to see Plainfield come back to tie by the end of regulation.
The Centaurs outscored the Panthers 12-7 in the extra period.
Liam Blanchflower (11 points) and Aidan Morin (10) each scored five in the overtime.
“Liam scored four of those points on consecutive possessions in overtime at a point when we really needed it,” Hart said. “I’m liking what I see from him. He gives us balance coming in off the bench. It’s a big lift when he comes off the bench and he’s versatile. He can play inside or outside. He’s really developed a nice shooting touch.”
Hart and the coaching staff have been working on everyone’s shooting touch.
The downfall in many of the losses over the course of the losing streak was the ability to put the ball in the basket.
Case in point was the Centaurs’ 49-43 loss to New London on Tuesday at the Alumni Fieldhouse.
The Centaurs led 35-30 at the beginning of the fourth quarter after a bucket by Bedard with 6:30 to play.
Woodstock Academy made only one of its last seven attempts at the basket.
“I thought we were in the game against New London and knew what they were going to do. I was really pleased with our defense but it came down to one or two possessions,” Hart said. “We would have liked to hit those chippies or bunnies.”
The Centaurs missed several down the stretch against the Whalers which allowed New London to forge ahead for good following a basket by Tayeshawn Pemberton with 4:21 to play.
Pemberton added three free throws and another bucket over the next three minutes to put the Whalers up. 45-41.
New London hit four of its last eight free throws to account for the final.
Bedard and Talbot were the only Centaurs in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Hart decided it was time to do something about it.
He brought in a friend, a shooting coach, as a guest speaker following the New London game.
“That was what we needed,” Hart said.
Against Plainfield, the Centaurs converted on 21-of-26 from the free throw line.
“It really improved their focus and mechanics in terms of shooting,” Hart said. “The foundation was defense and we got that down. Then rebounding and then the motion in our offense and as kind of a final step in the process, working on hitting the shots when we’re open. As I look down the column (against Plainfield), I think we’re taking the right shot with the right confidence.”
Centaurs conclude tough week
The week for the Woodstock Academy boys basketball ended in the same fashion that it began.
With another tough loss.
The Centaurs fell to the Bacon Academy Bobcats Friday in Colchester, 52-40.
It completed a three-game week where all of the contests were on the road.
“It’s an exhausting way to play basketball, both physically and mentally,” Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said. “The guys were together a lot and we put on quite a few miles. It showed when we had spurts where we just couldn’t string together possessions. Our legs were getting weary and that much travel was just tough on the team.”
Friday’s was the seventh straight loss for Woodstock Academy which fell to 4-10 overall and 1-5 in Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II.
The loss means the Centaurs need to win four of their last six to meet the 40 percent requirement to qualify for the Division IV state tournament.
“We’re not looking at (eight wins), we’re looking at the next one, our fifth. That’s what the focus has to be, one game at a time. We look at it and we know we haven’t made it easy on ourselves but we know it’s still within reach,” Hart said.
The Woodstock Academy coach is still pleased with some of the positives that he has been seeing, namely the improvement of Liam Blanchflower and the leadership of the seniors.
Friday was a winnable game for the Centaurs, but the fatigue showed early and the Bobcats took advantage.
Nick Tiziani got off to a hot start for Bacon, getting half of his game-high 18 points, all nine of those points came on 3-pointers.
Still. the Centaurs trailed by only five points coming out of the first quarter, but Bacon Academy (4-8, 3-2) turned up the defensive pressure a notch in the second quarter.
The Centaurs were held to just six points and trailed by double digits at the half, 30-16.
Woodstock Academy outscored Bacon, 24-22, in the second half but fell short.
Conor Brown added 11 for Bacon Academy.
Ethan Davis and Logan Talbot each scored 10 for the Centaurs.
It was just the second game back in the lineup for Talbot.
“It’s good to see Logan back out there on the court healthy. He is still working out some of the kinks but we’re glad to have him back,” Hart said.
The junior guard suffered a sprained ankle in practice the Sunday prior to the Martin Luther King Day matinee with Killingly.
Talbot, who was averaging over 17 points a game prior to the injury, missed three games.
He returned to the lineup Thursday and scored 12 points but the Centaurs still fell short north of the Massachusetts border, losing to Auburn, MA., 57-49.
The Centaurs kept this one close throughout, trailing by only two after the first and second quarters, but the Rockets were able to pull away in the fourth.
The hosts made 10-of-13 from the free throw line in the final quarter to keep Woodstock Academy at bay.
Aidan Morin led the Centaurs with 13 points.
Prior to Talbot’s return, Woodstock Academy faced a formidable task.
It had to take on an undefeated Norwich Free Academy early in the week on the Wildcats’ home floor.
Even though the Centaurs played the best that they would all week, the result was predictable.
The Wildcats walked away with the 63-48 win.
The Centaurs trailed by just a point at the end of the first quarter but fell behind quickly when Jared Martin went on a second quarter tear. The NFA player scored 13 of his 19 points in the second to put the Wildcats (13-0) up by 14 at the break.
Mason Jackson then scored eight of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter and NFA took a 17-point lead into the fourth.
Morin led the Centaurs with 12 points while Nick Bedard added 10.
“Our defense has been very reliable and our rebounding has been strong. Offensively, we have spurts where we’re getting shots we want but we can’t put them in. It stacks up after a few possessions. Where we’ve shot well this season, we’ve done well. When we haven’t shot well, we haven’t done well,” Hart said.
Centaurs put a scare into Fitch before falling
It's something the Woodstock Academy boys basketball team has to work on.
“Closing out games,” senior Aidan Morin said. “We worked our butts off against (Fitch) but we have to get a few more shots off in the last few minutes. Most of us are young and to keep this game close showed a lot.”
Fitch came in undefeated.
The Falcons left the Alumni Fieldhouse that way as well but they were tested by the Centaurs in a 49-44 Fitch win Friday.
“We have to be able to expand the rotation so that we have the depth to be able to finish. We’re putting together a half of basketball, three-quarters of a game, we just have to stave off the runs,” Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said.
That run came in the fourth quarter for the Falcons (11-0, 5-0 Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II).
The Centaurs had gone ahead to start the final quarter on a Liam Blanchflower basket. Seamus Greaves (15 points) tied the game for the Falcons but Ethan Davis answered for Woodstock Academy to put the Centaurs up, 39-37, with 4:45 to go.
It was to be the Centaurs (4-7. 1-4) last basket for the next 4:15.
Ajia Brown (14 points) found the range for Fitch.
The senior guard hit a 3-pointer to put the Falcons up, 40-39, with 4:05 to play. The Centaurs committed an offensive foul to give Fitch the ball back and Brown hit another 3-pointer.
“They set a lot of double screens down low. They have variety on that play where different guys will come up because they can all shoot the ball really well. He happened to come up twice and hit those 3’s off good screens,” Morin said.
Brown then stole the ball in the backcourt and made the easy layup to put the Falcons up, 45-39.
“That was the dagger,” Hart said with a shake of his head. “I can’t call time out with the ball in midair but I tried to. It happened pretty quickly. We just can’t let down. That pressure and that intensity is difficult to replicate in practice, but we’re starting to figure it out. We took a second to catch our breath and they took advantage.”
Both teams hobbled to the finish line.
The Centaurs made just 2-of-3 from the floor and 1-of-3 from the free throw line while Fitch missed its only shot in the final 3:07 and went 4-of-10 from the line.
Woodstock Academy got some balanced scoring to open the game.
Nick Bedard and Davis, both of whom finished with eight points, scored four each in the first quarter to help the Centaurs to a 14-11 first quarter lead.
Fitch rallied to tie the game at 19 by the half.
Morin decided he had to make something happen.
The senior didn’t have a point in the first half.
He scored all 14 of his points in the third quarter and finished with a double-double, adding 10 rebounds.
“He was taking the ball, rebounding, and putting it in the hole, too. We appreciate that. He’s a warrior. He works hard at everything and wants to carry the team. During that stretch, he certainly did,” Hart said.
It was the Coaches vs. Cancer game and prior to the contest, the Centaur seniors and Morin’s mother, Amy, a cancer survivor, handed out flowers to cancer survivors in the stands.
“I was thinking about that a lot in the game,” Morin said. “It felt great. Even though we lost, I know the team gave it their all. That’s all you can ask.”
It was also the second game the Centaurs were playing minus their leading scorer, Logan Talbot (17.2 ppg) who injured his ankle in practice the Sunday before.
“Logan brings that great shooting presence. Our offense is a whole different scheme without him. We have to slow it down offensively and on defense, he’s a great defender, so when the opportunities arise, we have to dive for the ball and things like that,” Morin said.
With just four minutes left in practice on Sunday, the Centaurs were playing a little intra-squad scrimmage.
Talbot went up for a rebound and came down on a teammate's foot.
That is never good for a coach to see.
Talbot hobbled to the side.
He showed up for the game with Killingly on Monday on crutches.
It was not the condition Hart needed to see his leading scorer in just prior to a game against their rivals.
The Centaurs played well in the first half but could not do so for 32 minutes and suffered a 46-34 defeat in a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday matinee on their home floor.
"He is seeing the doctor and trainers, and he's staying off of it. We're waiting to see because we won't know the full extent (of the injury) until the swelling goes down. We're going to take good care of him and hope for the best," Hart said.
It changed the game plan against Killingly (5-5).
Instead of trying to get Talbot out on the break and score some baskets in transition, the Centaurs (4-6) hunkered down.
A deliberate offense was called for and was very effective in the first half.
The Centaurs limited Killingly to 10 first quarter shots and only 17 for the half.
What was even better was that Killingly made only three and Woodstock Academy enjoyed a 16-9 halftime advantage.
"I think our approach was balanced and we came into the game and controlled the tempo and the boards. Those were the first two things we wrote on the board before the game. We also located their shooters very well in the first half," Hart said.
Killingly senior Shayne Bigelow was held to just four points.
Baskets by Liam Blanchflower and Andrew Johnson, who shared team-high honors with 12 points each, raised the Centaurs lead to 20-9 at the start of the third quarter.
It was the end of the good news.
Bigelow got hot.
A field goal by the senior with 6:20 left in the third began an 11-0 Killingly run, Bigelow getting nine of those points.
"They started build momentum off the set in-bounds play when Bigelow hit a 3-pointer. That loosened things up. We started to look for scoring and didn't stay balanced in our approach and that led to some run outs and in a tight ballgame that we have to grind out, their spurt was very well-timed," Hart said.
The 11-0 run tied the game at 20.
It remained a one-point game or less until 4:50 was left in the game.
Bigelow, who finished with a game-high 24 points, hit a 3-pointer and later a free throw to put Killingly up by five.
Nick Bedard cut it back to three with a field goal but Killingly freshman Yianni Baribeau (11 points) hit a 3-pointer and both Bigelow and Baribeau hit free throws to give Killingly the 10-point lead with only 1:30 to play.
"Yianni started hitting shots. He was an asterisk on the board rather than a player we were looking to stop. I was fine with him taking those shots, I just didn't like them going in," Hart said.
Centaurs fall back under .500
To all good things must come an end.
The Woodstock Academy boys basketball team extended its winning streak to four games early in the week with a victory over Griswold.
But Ellington and Ledyard brought the Centaurs back down to earth.
The Purple Knights kept their undefeated ways going with a 70-58 win over Woodstock Academy at the Alumni Fieldhouse Wednesday.
The Centaurs then traveled to Ledyard on Friday and fell to the Colonels, 60-44.
Woodstock Academy tested Ledyard early.
Woodstock Academy junior guard Logan Talbot hit four 3-pointers in the first half and kept the Centaurs (4-5, 1-3 Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II) in lockstep with the Colonels as the game was tied at 23 at the half.
But Dorell Cagle hit eight points for the Colonels (5-4, 2-2) in the third quarter and Ledyard was able to double the Centaurs point production in the third quarter, 16-8.
Ledyard put it away with a 21-13 fourth quarter advantage,
Talbot led the Centaurs with 21 while Aidan Morin added 10.
The winning streak came to an end two days before against Ellington.
"I think we have to be very happy with our effort and disappointed with the outcome," Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said. "(Ellington) is a very good team. It executed very well and the margin for error was very thin. When we missed an assignment or didn't communicate a switch, we paid for it. When we gave up a rebound, we paid for it. We did battle and hung with them, even when we got down. I give our guys credit for fighting back."
The Centaurs were down by only six points, 44-38, with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
That's when Brandon Zahner, a junior guard for the Purple Knights, decided it was time to get hot.
The guard hit only three baskets all night.
But they came in succession within two minutes of each other late in the third quarter, all from beyond the 3-point arc, and it doubled Ellington's lead going into the final quarter to 12 points.
"We were trying to locate him as a shooter and that' not an individual task, that's a team task. We talked about it, wanted to do it, and didn't accomplish it," Hart said.
The Centaurs did pull back within eight briefly in the fourth quarter when Morin (10 points) and Talbot hit a couple of quick buckets to open the final period.
But Ellington (7-0) followed with an 8-1 run of their own to put the win away.
Both teams came out of the gates smoking.
Talbot scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the first quarter and the Centaurs made eight of their 16 shots as the two teams battled to an 18-18 tie at the end of the first.
"When we open things up, get into our lanes and play to our strengths, good things happen," Hart said. "When we meet some adversity, we have to remember to stick to our strengths, instead of trying other things that are outside of our control."
Ellington was able to build a seven-point lead, 35-28, by the half thanks to seven second-quarter points from Tom Garrow (15 points).
"They are a great group. Well-drilled. They've stolen a few plays from us from playing us last year so credit their coach and their program. It's a nice matchup for us and it's the type of team that we're working to become," Hart said.
Andrew Johnson added 12 points for the Centaurs in the loss.
Good win over local rival
The Centaurs had to buckle in and grind it out early in the week..
Griswold tested them in a defensive struggle at the Alumni Fieldhouse. but Woodstock Academy pulled it out in the end by a 42-35 score.
"They are a quality team and work really hard," Hart said of Griswold.
Especially on the defensive side.
Talbot's 32-point effort against Stonington the Saturday before drew the attention of the Wolverines defense.
"They had a man stick with me the whole game," Talbot said. "But they also pressured a lot on defense so backdoor cuts took some of the pressure off which really helped."
Talbot still led the team with 14 points, but others had to step up.
"We're really trying to pride ourselves on balance. We realize that if we run the plays and they cut one guy off, the other guy should be open. We're trying to get them to go back door and get some motion and get the shots when we can," Hart said.
Senior Nick Bedard was ready to help.
The Centaurs "Swiss Army Knife", according to Hart, finished with 12 points.
Still, Woodstock Academy was never quite able to pull away.
"They were really good on defense, but neither of us could get it going offensively, no one had 20 points going into the second half," Bedard said.
Bedard and Ethan Davis led the Centaurs with five points each in the first half when Woodstock Academy hit only 7-of-20 from the floor and turned the ball over eight times.
Still, the Centaurs led 17-13.
Woodstock Academy did put on a little burst early that would carry them throughout the second half.
Morin, Talbot and Bedard hit unanswered baskets and Morin added a free throw in a 7-0 run that put the Centaurs up by nine, 26-17, with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
Griswold did claw its way back and closed to within three, 33-30, with 5:27 to play on a pair of C.J. Mattson free throws.
The senior led the Wolverines (5-2) with 10 points.
Bedard got the last basket of the game for the Centaurs with 2:25 left and Woodstock Academy did enough at the free throw line, making 6-of-14, to keep the Wolverines at bay.
Woodstock Academy, however, finished 14-for-29 at the charity stripe.
"Me, personally, I have to work extra in practice on my free throws. I'm not the best at it, but we will get them down," Bedard said.
Morin said the win streak after three consecutive losses to start the season is rather nice.
"I'm loving it," Morin said. "We get over .500 and came back from three straight losses to start the season. It's crazy. But the team has come together and we have great chemistry. We're moving the ball around and playing good defense.”
An eye opening week for Woodstock Academy
In the final seconds of the Woodstock Academy junior varsity game with Stonington Saturday, everything went dark.
The power on the school’s North Campus had gone out due to lines down because of the high winds the area was experiencing.
Fortunately for Woodstock Academy, it has two campuses and they are not on the same part of the electric grid.
After some quick packing up and a detour that took many out into the countryside of Woodstock due to the main road blocked by the power line problem, the varsity game was moved to the South Campus gym.
All the commotion bothered the home team more than the visitors.
The game didn’t start out well.
Stonington scored 15 of the first 17 points.
“It was an absolute disaster to start,” Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said. “Fortunately for us, we figured it out.”
The Centaurs rallied for a 67-62 win over the Bears.
It completed a rather nice week for Woodstock Academy.
After a 0-3 start over the holiday break, the Centaurs recorded wins over Windham and defending Division II state champ Waterford on the road and then battled the circumstances and themselves for the win over Stonington at home.
“We’ve changed so much,” senior and only returning starter Aidan Morin said. “We realized what we needed to fix after starting 0-3, found our strengths, and found ways to use each other. We did exactly that against two very good teams in Waterford and Stonington. This means so much to us to win at home.”
Hart said the turnaround was due to some hard work.
“After we lost to Bacon Academy (on Jan. 2), we had a mini-boot camp. We recognized that we were young. I’m very thankful that some other coaches came to practice, some alumni and some of my former players came to practice, and Aidan stepped up. We started teaching the principles of man-to-man defense, rebounding and ball-control offense. That was No. 1. We had to get more movement into our offense and we spread it out so it creates situations where Aidan and Ethan (Davis) can drive to the basket and we really bought into rebounding. As soon as we focused on rebounding and put our energy into that, it loosened things up,” Hart said.
The Centaurs (3-3, 1-2 Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II) took advantage of some Stonington frustration at the end of the first quarter.
Morin (11 points, eight rebounds) hit a bask to cut the deficit to 11 and then the Bears were hit not only with a two-shot foul but a technical to boot. The Centaurs made three of the four ensuing free throws and only trailed, 15-7, at the end of the quarter.
Logan Talbot heated up in the second quarter.
The junior guard, who transferred in from Holy Name in Worcester this year, hit a pair of 3-pointers, completed a three-point play and put down a jumper with a span of 2:13, an 11-0 run of his own, that put the Centaurs on top, 18-17.
“I was just shooting and hoping they would go in,” Talbot said with a laugh. “They fell for me (Saturday).”
Talbot finished with a career varsity high of 32 points.
He did score 41 in a junior varsity game for Holy Name.
“I think at the start, I was playing hesitantly. Not anymore,” Talbot said. “It took a little while to fit in. Our chemistry keeps getting better.”
“That was amazing,” Morin said of Talbot’s performance. “We’ve never played together as a unit. This is still all new to us and we’re finally getting used to it. We’ve found our scorers. He’s absolutely our scorer. 32 points doesn’t happen often and we needed it (Saturday).”
Despite Talbot’s 13-point second quarter, the Centaurs only led, 25-21, at the half.
Woodstock Academy did get a lot more separation in the third quarter where everyone contributed and the Centaurs built a double-digit lead, going into the fourth quarter with a 48-35 advantage.
But Stonington (4-5, 2-1) rallied and got as close as two points, 62-60, in the final quarter, thanks to five 3-pointers, three off the hands of Zach Scott (13 points).
The Centaurs made five of their last six free throws to account for the final.
Woodstock Academy did what it had to against Windham early in the week.
The game was a battle of winless clubs with the Whippets having lost their first six going in.
The Centaurs made it seven in a row with a 64-48 win over Windham on the road.
"The guys have been working hard in practice and we just needed to see the fruits of our labor on the court. It really came together for us," Hart said.
The ball also finally went in the hoop for the Centaurs.
Hart said that was because his team was efficient offensively and that opened the door for some better looks at the basket.
Andrew Johnson led five Centaurs in double figures with 17 points.
"We tried to streamline him to his strengths, catch and attack the elbow, and if nothing is there, take it to the basket. He stayed really focused and gave us good energy on defense and was super-efficient on offense," Hart said.
Talbot added 13 for the Centaurs while Morin and Nick Bedard scored 12 each.
Davis was also in double figures with 10 points and finished with a double-double as he added 12 rebounds, seven off the offensive glass.
While it was a good win over Windham, it hardly caught anyone’s fancy.
The 59-50 win over the Lancers, opened some eyes.
The Centaurs went into the final quarter down by three points.
They scored 25 points in the third quarter.
“It is pretty good and I think they got desperate and we really ratcheted up the pressure rebounding,” Hart said. “When they started firing up long shots and we limited them to one shot, got the rebound and the run out, it led to some good scoring.”
Johnson was a key for a second game in a row, getting 10 of his 15 points in the final quarter and Davis scored eight of his nine in the same eight minutes.
“We moved Aidan out to the point and that pulled their big 6-foot-6 guy out of the middle and (Johnson and Davis) stepped up and filled the hoop for us,” Hart said.
Compared to the first three weeks, it’s a different world that the Centaurs now find themselves in.
“It really is. We were 0-3 after the Bacon loss and we had to bring them together. It was easy to tell what was wrong. We had to figure out how to fix it and who would do so. We really worked on the rebounding and put our emphasis there and once we started winning the rebound battles, we found good shots. Our offense was stagnant so we’ve spread it out. We’ve added some things to get guys away from the basket and going to the basket. We’re playing to our strengths. Each of the players know his strengths and when we play to them, we’re very balanced,” Hart said.
4th quarter rally by Bacon sinks Centaurs
It’s an old adage; It’s hard to win if a team doesn’t score.
Unfortunately, the Woodstock Academy boys basketball team has battled an offensive drought over its first three games.
The Centaurs have yet to score over 41 points in a game after a 53-41 loss to Bacon Academy in their home opener Thursday at the Alumni Fieldhouse.
The loss dropped the Centaurs to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in Division II of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
“We’re going to have to learn how to be efficient both through ball movement and shot selection. We have to step up and take the shots with more confidence and find a way to score. We also have to continue to put forth the effort and take pride in being stingy on the defensive side of the court,” Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said.
The Centaurs were not in a bad place at the end of three quarters.
They trailed the Bobcats (2-2, 1-1) by only two points, 36-34.
But the offense suddenly disappeared and Bacon Academy took advantage.
Conor Brown put the Bobcats up, 38-34, just 11 seconds into the quarter with a layup and Terrell Gardner followed with his only basket of the night, a 3-pointer.
Casey Hart, who finished with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) for Bacon Academy, added a jumper to put his team up, 43-34.
Logan Talbot ended the Bacon run briefly as the Centaur guard got a layup to fall, but Hart and Brown, who got a nifty assist from Noah Violette, added baskets to put the Bobcats up by double figures and a free throw by Luke LaSaracina ended a 12-2 Bacon run that encompassed nearly the first six minutes of the final quarter.
“They put a good run on us. We need to find where our strengths are and play within those to get points in those key situations where we have to get a stop and get a score. I’m not faulting our effort. We just have to work on the efficiency,” Hart said.
The Centaurs took only five shots during that Bacon run and turned the ball over five times.
It didn’t get any better the rest of the way as Woodstock Academy made only one of their last five shots and finished by making only 13-of-47 (28 percent) from the floor with 19 turnovers.
There was an early bright spot.
And it’s what Hart is referring to when he said the Centaurs have to find their strengths.
Talbot did show the ability to score in the second quarter.
The junior guard put down 13 of his game-high 20 points and helped the Centaurs stay close, trailing only 27-23 at the half.
Talbot made five of his eight shots in the quarter including a trio of 3-pointers.
“Logan is a competitor and I appreciate that he had the tenacity to keep working at it and getting shots off. We would like more balanced scoring but if a guy gets hot, we have to recognize that and try to feed the fire,” Hart said.
Talbot did cool in the second half after making his first shot, another 3-pointer, just 1:04 into the third quarter.
But he took only one other shot in the quarter and was just 1-for-3 in the fourth quarter.
No one picked up the slack.
Aidan Morin finished with eight points, five in the third quarter, but failed to score in the fourth. Sophomore Ethan Davis (6 points) was the only other Centaur to get a basket to fall in the final period, a 3-pointer with 24 seconds to play.
The schedule also continued to work against the Centaurs.
The game against Bacon Academy was the only game of the week.
That has been the case for the first three weeks of the season.
For that reason. Hart is happy to see not one or two but three games next week against Windham (Tuesday), Waterford (Thursday) and Stonington (Saturday).
“We are looking forward to that. They are going to start coming at us pretty fast and furiously. I look at the next 13 days (starting with Windham Tuesday) and we have seven games. One game a week hasn’t allowed us to get into much of a rhythm. It was nice to be at home (Thursday) with the friendly hoops and the friendly fans, but we’re going to have to get back to practice and working on offensive efficiency, rebounding and being stingier on defense,” Hart said.
Centaurs fall in Killingly
Play a game.
Take a week off.
Such has been the scenario for the Woodstock Academy Centaurs boys basketball team and, so far, it hasn’t helped.
“It’s been difficult to get momentum on the season simply because of the late start and the holidays which is great for time off, but (it’s tough) to string together practices with everybody there, present and healthy, and get everybody on the same page,” Centaurs coach Marty Hart said.
With an essentially completely new varsity team outside of one returning varsity player in Aidan Morin, finding that chemistry is a vital ingredient.
It’s clear the Centaurs need to work on that a little more.
The Centaurs played only their second game of the season on Friday and lost to Killingly, 54-32, at Killingly High School.
Woodstock Academy is 0-2 on the season.
It wasn’t only that the shots weren’t falling for the Centaurs, they just simply were not going up.
Woodstock Academy took only 19 shots in the first half against Killingly.
The Centaurs made only four of them.
“We got lost in ball movement without the efficiency,” Hart said. “It was painful from where I sat and where people were. You turned and saw people open, but we weren’t passing with a purpose. We have to execute our plays rather than just try to run them. Five guys running a play and one thing goes awry and everybody suffers. We’re going to tighten up that area, get more repetition. It’s a different speed, a different level of physicality.”
Despite the lack of scoring, the Centaurs hung with Killingly (1-2) for much of the first half.
Logan Talbot (11 points) hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter and Morin added a basket to briefly give the Centaurs a 5-1 lead.
Killingly tied it by the end of the quarter and scored the first seven points of the second quarter.
But a pair of Talbot 3-pointers and two free throws by the junior brought Woodstock Academy back within one, 14-13, with 1:40 left to play in the half.
Killingly, however, wasn’t done.
It reeled off the next nine points, five by Shayne Bigelow (20 points), and Killingly led at the half, 23-13.
A three-point play by sophomore Ethan Davis and a Morin basket just 3:17 into the second half, brought the Centaurs within seven, 25-18.
But Jay Grzysiewicz (14 points) and Bigelow hit consecutive 3-pointers for Killingly to go back up by double digits.
Morin, who led the Centaurs with 13 points, countered with five of his own.
Killingly scored the final four points of the third quarter and the first eight of the fourth and led by double digits the remainder of the way.
The Centaurs finished 12-for-41 from the field (29 percent) and made just 4-of-14 from the free throw line.
“A lot of guys got opportunities, but we’re still evaluating. We’re looking at just the second varsity game for a number of those players, and we’re trying to find our way,” Hart said. “As a coach, I have to do a better of job of helping to prepare them. Success happens when preparation meets opportunity. We had the opportunity (Friday), we just weren’t prepared. We’re young. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep working at it.”
The Centaurs were also outrebounded by Killingly.
Davis led Woodstock Academy with seven rebounds.
“We got pushed around here by some players who were working a little harder. I wouldn’t say our guys don’t work hard, but we need to play a little smarter, in addition to harder, so that we can execute and recognize when we really have to get after blocking out people,” Hart said.
The Centaurs next take the floor after the New Year.
They host Bacon Academy at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2 in their home opener.
Fitch hands Centaurs season-opening loss
It’s going to take a little bit for the Woodstock Academy boys basketball team to get used to, not only to one another, but to the rigor of playing varsity basketball.
“We just need to get better in our roles. I look at the court and I see Aidan (Morin) out there as a returning starter and everybody else was getting their first varsity experience,” Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart said.
It showed a bit in the season opener for the Centaurs on Friday.
Playing against an experienced Fitch team, Woodstock Academy stuttered a bit in the second quarter, fell behind by double digits at halftime and lost to the Falcons in Groton, 58-41.
The Centaurs hung tough in the first quarter.
A pair of 3-pointers by newcomer Logan Talbot and another trey by senior point guard Nick Bedard meant Woodstock Academy only trailed, 16-12.
Talbot, who comes in from Holy Name in Massachusetts, got his first taste of playing Eastern Connecticut Conference basketball.
Success like that early, means a player will get some attention.
“(Fitch) tried to shut (Talbot) off, he was 2-for-3 in the first quarter and had a couple of tries later that didn’t find their way. He’s a little banged up from the physical play, but he will make the adjustment. He’s a strong competitor,” Hart said.
With the Falcons working hard to shut down the perimeter game, the Centaurs tried to look inside but that produced only eight points in the second quarter.
Fitch was able to double that and as the Falcons made more baskets, also made it more difficult for Woodstock Academy to get the ball down the floor.
“They put a couple of runs on us with their fullcourt pressure which we were handling well but in spurts, we did not, and those spurts happened pretty quickly in the second quarter,” Hart said.
The Centaurs were down at the half, 32-20.
It was a 14-point differential going into the final quarter.
“What I’m really happy about is that we maintained our composure and a good team attitude. We’re willing to learn from this and put in the work that’s necessary. It’s a good eye opener, because we can’t replicate that in practice,” Hart said. “Now that they have seen it firsthand, we have their attention and commitment. I’m hoping that will put us on an upward path.”
Morin finished with 11 points while Bedard added 10.
“He looked solid and he works hard,” Hart said of Bedard’s effort. “He put in some shots, was able to score by driving to the basket. He may not be a shooter (by Bedard’s own admission) but I think he is a scorer. He works hard at it. He and Aidan really carried the load. We just have to get the other guys to learn their role and develop their confidence.”
The Centaurs get a break for the Christmas holiday.
They don’t return to the floor until 7 p.m. Friday when they play at Killingly.
“It’s a strange year so far. Basketball started so late because Thanksgiving was so late. We played a full week and now we don’t have a game until Friday and Christmas Eve and Christmas are going to come at us. It’s nice to have some time and, hopefully, the guys will stay active and loose and will be ready to get back. We have a short prep, one day, after Christmas to get ready for Killingly. All coaches want more time but it’s a grind and it’s early in the year so we just have to keep climbing the mountain,” Hart said.
2019-20 Season Preview: Centaurs hope to overcome lack of varsity experience
The group of players that Woodstock Academy boys basketball coach Marty Hart will send out on to the floor this season has a decent amount of experience playing together on the court.
Just not on the varsity level.
“This year is going to be huge for us,” senior Nick Bedard, who played on the JV level last year, said. “Growing the team for next year will be great because they are all going to be working together and learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That will be big.”
Gone are players like 1,000-point scorer Chase Anderson, who led the team with 18 ½ points per game last season and inside players Cole Hackett (9.7 points per game, a team-best 188 rebounds) and Luke Mathewson (6.3 ppg).
“Those guys were awesome. It’s tough to lose them on any team. They’re strong leaders, unselfish players and hard-working guys,” Hart said.
Add to that, guards Aaron Johnson (9.5 ppg); Eric Preston, Ethan Adams, and Jake Marsalisi and forward John Rogers and there are few varsity minutes unaccounted for.
The majority of those left belonged to the only returning starter, Aidan Morin, who averaged five points and just over four rebounds a game.
The 6-foot-3 Morin is one of only four seniors on the team.
Nick Bedard, Efstathios Savvidis and Grayson Walley are the others.
The 6-foot Bedard will take over the role of point guard.
“I’m excited,” Bedard said. “I’m not much of a shooter. I like to dish the ball out, get it where it needs to go to make the play.”
Bedard said he’s ready for the leadership role especially after a football season which saw the team go a surprising 7-3. He thinks some of the energy from the football field will transfer to the hardwood.
“He’s a great leader, a smart guy, who plays within himself and looks to get the most out of his teammates. That’s enjoyable to see so far,” Hart said.
Savvidis, junior Logan Talbot, and sophomore Parker Anderson will be the others in the backcourt alongside Bedard.
Morin will be teamed up front with Walley; juniors Andrew Johnson, Liam Blanchflower, Daimler Aleksjuks, and Eli Werstler and sophomores Ethan Davis, and Huck Flanagan.
Hart likes what he has seen so far from the junior group.
Talbot comes in with experience having played at Holy Name High School in Worcester; Blanchflower, Andrew Johnson and Werstler have all looked good in practice so Hart is hopeful that last year’s strategy will pay dividends this season.
“With such a large senior class last season, there just wasn’t an opportunity to get these guys minutes so we made the executive decision to keep them together on JV,” Hart said. “They are a group that has played together for a bit, they’re hungry and generous in sharing the ball and working hard on defense.”
That last ingredient will be one of the most important aspects of the season.
Defense will be have to be priority No. 1 as there is no proven scorer.
“We’re really going to have to knuckle down and focus on the defensive end and look at transition offense, but you can’t have transition offense if you don’t play defense. We have to play a good, hard team defense and understand that we have interchangeable parts so we should be able to switch up on screens and really put pressure on the ball, team rebound and then go,” Hart said.
Indeed, the team is pretty homogenous when it comes to size.
Flanagan is the tallest at 6-4 followed by Werstler, Morin and Blanchflower at 6-3, everyone else is between 5-11 and 6-2.
Morin agrees the offense may take a while to find.
But while that may be an issue for this season, it may help in the future.
“I have been more of a defensive player, but that means more players can step up and that is good for the future as well because we can see who can step up and who is good at what. There is so much room for everyone to improve,” Morin said.
The Centaurs finished 10-13 a season ago.
Whether Woodstock Academy can best that or not depends on what the rest of the league looks like.
“The Eastern Connecticut Conference is a tough road,” Hart said.
But there is some relief.
Waterford, which finished 26-1 and won the Division II state championship, has moved up to Division I in the league.
The Centaurs will be paired with Ledyard (8-14 in Div. I last year); Fitch (13-11 in Div. II); Stonington (19-7 Div. III) and Bacon Academy (1-20 Div. II) this season.
But the Centaurs will still play every Division I opponent, including Waterford, at least once, and will play East Lyme twice.
“Those games will be very challenging, but we’re also going to play some of the local rivals, Plainfield, Griswold and Killingly. It’s a schedule where we have the opportunity to win games and we will be in games, but we’re going to have to be very disciplined because the margin for error is very thin,” Hart said.