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Week 5: Woodstock Academy picks up win No. 9

If anyone would have told Woodstock Academy girls basketball coach Will Fleeton at the beginning of the season that his team would have nine wins in its first 12 games, he wouldn’t have listened.

Due to the youth and inexperience of the program at the high school level, Fleeton was just hoping to see continual progress over the course of the year.

But after a 32-23 win over Plainfield on Thursday, the Centaurs truly own a 9-3 record.

“Unbelievable, more than happy,” Fleeton said of his team’s start. “I couldn’t say I would have predicted it because I don’t make predictions but I wouldn’t have said nine (wins). The kids are playing outstanding, above their means but only due to their youth because I think they are capable of playing at a high level.”

Even when playing against the same team, twice, in the matter of five days.

That’s what happened against the Panthers as the Centaurs beat Plainfield, 39-28, on the Saturday before and then traveled to Central Village to pick up the most recent nine-point victory.

“It’s tough to win two games against the same team in a month so to win two games against the same team in a week, that’s extremely tough. We both know each other so well, it was just the other day and whomever won the first game, obviously, is the target in the second. It was a tough grind against a tough team. If I had to choose, I wouldn’t have chosen them (to play two games in a week against)” Fleeton said with a laugh.

The Centaurs could not break free of their hosts.

They led by only three, 11-8, at the end of the first quarter thanks, in part, to a pair of 3-pointers by Leila MacKinnon and Kaylee Saucier.

 It was the only quarter in which Woodstock Academy scored in double digits as the Panthers (4-5) held them to six points the second quarter, nine in the third and six again in the fourth.

“It was always five to seven points (difference) and a couple of times, they knocked it down to three but it really felt like a 1-point game because one or two possessions or shots could have changed the whole dynamic,” Fleeton said.

Saucier led the Centaurs with nine points while Eva Monahan added eight and MacKinnon finished with seven.

“It was a low-scoring game, which makes it a defensive game, and I think that’s what made me most proud was how we held them like we did,” Fleeton said.

Earlier in the week, Saucier put together a strong fourth quarter effort but it wasn't enough to carry the Centaurs over the hump as they fell to Norwich Free Academy, 43-39, Tuesday at the Alumni Fieldhouse.

The loss dropped Woodstock Academy to 1-1 in Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.

The Centaurs trailed, 30-24, going into the final quarter as the Wildcats (3-7, 1-1 ECC Div. I) scored the final eight points of the third.

Woodstock Academy rallied as Isabel D'Alleva-Bochain hit a bucket just 19 seconds into the fourth and after an NFA tally, Saucier hit a 3-pointer to cut the Wildcats lead to three, 32-29.

Naevaeh York, who led NFA with 15 points, hit a pair of consecutive baskets to make it a seven-point game again.

But Saucier, who finished with 14 points, scored seven of the next nine points and made it a one-possession game, 38-36, with 1:49 to play.

“She doesn’t have to look for her offense, she just has to let the game come to her,” Fleeton said of his freshman point guard. “We strive to have different people step up, so there may be nights when she doesn’t have to score. So, I wouldn’t say she has to look for her offense, she just has to let the game come to her and if it comes her way, we have to capitalize on it. That’s what happened against NFA.”

York hit a free throw with 34 seconds left. but missed the back end of the one-and-one opportunity.

That worked in NFA's favor as Emily Orcutt rebounded the miss and put it back home to put the Wildcats up, 41-36.

D'Alleva-Bochain hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left but two free throws by NFA's Brooke Bolles with 1.5 seconds left sealed the Centaurs fate.

Even though the Wildcats came in with just one win to its credit at the time, Fleeton expected no less than what the Wildcats gave.

“The one win means nothing, they’re NFA. They have played some tough opponents which is why they’re 1-7. They are a quality group and I knew we had a fight on our hands,” Fleeton said.

Monahan added eight points for Woodstock Academy in the contest.

The next week is big for the Centaurs in the scheme of ECC Division I play.

Woodstock Academy travels to Fitch, which is off to a 2-0 start in divisional play, on Tuesday. The Centaurs follow that up with a home game against another Division I opponent, East Lyme (0-2), on Friday.

“Big week for the division,” Fleeton agreed. “I imagine the rest of the way, it’s going to get tougher because we will see more league play and the ECC is tough. Our division is very competitive and those games (vs. Fitch and East Lyme) are important for us.”