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Week 11: Season comes to a close with loss in ECC quarterfinal

Everyone on the Woodstock Academy boys basketball team would love to still be playing.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

The Centaurs were playing some of their best basketball of the season as they produced their third consecutive win in a 57-42 victory over Old Lyme early this week.

They also bolted out to a halftime lead over Fitch in an Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament quarterfinal game.

That lead, however, went away in the second half and third-seeded Fitch prevailed over the sixth-seeded Centaurs, 63-41, Thursday.

It was the end of the road for the 2022-23 season as Woodstock Academy finished 7-14, one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.

“I told the guys they have helped me become a better coach throughout the season,” said Donte Adams about his first year at the helm. “Seven wins, double from last year, it wasn’t the goal to do but we definitely got better. Our seniors set a standard for the guys planning to play next year.”

Nine points by senior Brandon Nagle propelled the Centaurs to a 23-19 lead at halftime of the quarterfinal against the Falcons in Groton.

“We played almost a perfect half in terms of execution and handling their pressure,” Adams said. “We had a few minor miscommunications but, besides that, our guys were getting to the rim pretty much any time they wanted. We were playing good defense, too.”

That had been the case in the previous three games that produced wins over Waterford, Griswold and Old Lyme.

“The guys were on the same (wavelength) and that’s why we were able to put together a little win streak. Even though shots weren’t falling at one point, we were able to get back on to the other end and defend,” the Woodstock Academy coach added.

That changed in the third quarter as Fitch put together an impressive comeback.

Mikey Wagner was nearly impossible to stop as the Falcons guard put down four 3-pointers and a trio of free throws to key an 18-point run by Fitch.

“That third quarter was rough,” Adams admitted. “It’s been tough all season to come out after halftime and keep the same energy. We knew Fitch was going to be more aggressive, but I always tell them to embrace the pressure. (On Thursday), it got the best of us.”

Nagle was the only member of the Centaurs to finish in double figures with 13 points, Hunter Larson added seven points.

In the regular season finale against Old Lyme, Larson finished with 15 points while Brady Ericson added 12 and Nagle 11.

The wish list for Adams for next season includes a more consistent scoring effort.

That could be helped, not only by additional experience of the expected returnees, the possibility of a newcomer or two but also by a rule change.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has adopted a 35-second shot clock for the 2023-24 season for both boys and girls basketball.

“I’m excited for that,” Adams said. “It’s more my style. Teams will not be able to hold the ball. (Thursday) We were playing defense for, like, a whole minute and a half. We actually were guarding them well but they finished with a bucket and it took a lot out of the guys. Next year, we will be able to get up-and-down more. Hopefully, it will help us put more points on the board.”

Adams and his assistant, Denzel Washington, were former coaches with the Woodstock Academy prep basketball team which played with a shot clock.

Adams also is familiar with it from his playing days, which may give the Woodstock Academy coaching staff a leg up on their ECC counterparts.

“I’m definitely used to it. I played with it all through high school in New York and in college and coached with it with the preps. It should play in our favor,” Adams said.

Adams likes the core he has returning with Larson, Ericson and Garrett Bushey leading the way.

But, the team could use something.

“We need a point guard so, hopefully, someone steps up,” Adams said.