gold p 1 2-11-21

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Gold prep
team posts
win in
season opener
For the first time in about two and a half months, The Woodstock Academy Gold prep basketball team stepped onto the court at the Alumni Fieldhouse to play a basketball game.
“We’re excited. It felt good to be back. We’ve been out for a long time,” said guard Julian Soumaoro.
The Centaurs last played a scrimmage against St. Thomas More back in November.
The rust showed, but the Centaurs did prevail as they overcame Notre Dame-West Haven in a hard-fought contest, 71-66 Feb. 6.
Soumaoro said it was difficult as the team came back from the holiday break and had to go through another quarantine period before resuming practice about a week before the game with the Green Knights..
Add to it the fact that the Centaurs were playing without their coaching staff on the sideline.
Head coach Jacque Rivera was with his wife welcoming in their new child, Hayden, to the world while assistant coach Denzel Washington was unavailable due to pandemic protocol.
It meant Brad Favreau had to step in as acting head coach. “We knew what to do. (Favreau) gave us the blueprint and we had to go out and execute,” Soumaoro said. “(Favreau) left me and the other point guards in charge and we had to take ownership.”
The Centaurs took advantage of their large interior advantage especially early on.
Notre Dame-West Haven had no answer for the size or bulk of 6-foot, 7-inch Tairi Ketner inside the paint and the Yeadon, Penn., native scored six of his 10 points early to give Woodstock Academy a 16-8 advantage.
But the Green Knights didn’t buckle and were able to take the lead prior to the end of the half. A pair of free throws by Evan Scott-Alexander tied the game at 31 and a pair of unanswered baskets by Justin Davis put Notre Dame-West Haven up by four, which was the margin it enjoyed, 40-36, at the half.
The Centaurs tied the game 4 minutes, 32 seconds into the second half on a pair of Dominic Strothers baskets.
The two teams jockeyed back and forth with a Davis basket with 5:52 left knotting the game at 61.
That’s when Soumaoro took charge for the Centaurs. He hit a 3-pointer to break the deadlock with just over five minutes to play and, after a Justin Cross basket for the Centaurs, added another trey with 2:17 to play to put the Gold squad up, 69-61.
“I had missed a layup and a 3-pointer prior to that, Dom (Strothers) got the steal. I told him as soon as he caught it, ‘Let me get the 3, Dom.’ I thank Dom for trusting me with the ball and it went in,” Soumaoro said. It was his fifth 3-pointer of the game.
The Green Knights did score the next five points but a Soumaoro basket with 45 seconds left put the finishing touches on the win.
Dashon Gittens was the only other player in double figures for the Centaurs with 16 points.
“Absolutely,” Soumaoro said when asked if he was excited for, hopefully, more games to come for the Centaurs. “We need to get the dust off. We need to get back. I can’t wait until we get into motion with the coaching staff back and everything, I can’t wait for that.”
The Centaurs Blue prep basketball team did not have it so good the night before in West Haven.
The Centaurs fell to the Green Knights, 105-74.
Ethan Edwards scored 14 points and Jayden Beloti added 12 in the loss.
Boys’ Hockey
The Woodstock Academy boys’ ice hockey team will not have too many chances to get on the ice this season.
But with just two hours of ice time under their belts Feb. 6, the Centaurs had to treat their game against the Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks cooperative as a scrimmage.
“All of our games this year are, technically, scrimmages but this one really was. The rest of them we are looking at as games, but (Saturday), we were just trying to get a look at some of these kids; the new kids in particular who were on junior varsity last year and we want to see what they can do in a varsity setting,” said Woodstock Academy coach Kevin Bisson.
Bisson had one problem in doing so — he constantly had to deal with players in the penalty box.
The Centaurs were whistled for seven penalties and, as a result, fell to the Wildcats, 4-2, at their new home this season, the RoseGarden Ice Arena in Norwich.
Woodstock Academy did lose a couple of games that it was originally scheduled to play when two games with the Eastern Connecticut Eagles were dropped from the schedule.
It leaves the Centaurs with just five more games on the schedule; at Xavier (Feb. 15), at TriTown (Feb. 19), at Northeastern (Feb. 20), at Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks (Feb. 26) and their only other home game against Rocky Hill (March 6) in Norwich.
“We’re trying to make the most of (the shortened season) and play it like we would (normally) so it’s a delicate balance. We don’t have a lot of time to do that,” Bisson said.
Bisson added that, overall, his players’ attitude has been tremendous. For example, the Centaurs received their jerseys and socks just two hours before game time in Norwich and a half-hour before the bus was scheduled to leave.
Most of the players showed up well before 5 p.m.
 “It tells me that they are ready,” Bisson said.
While the spirit may be there, the bodies may still need some work.
It’s one of the reasons why Bisson believed his Centaurs were so penalty prone in their opener.
“You could see the lack of reps on ice, the penalties were a product of that,” Bisson said. “Kids not moving their feet, taking penalties they otherwise wouldn’t if they had the energy and the legs that they would normally have. We’re asking them and ourselves to figure it out on the fly.”
The Centaurs found themselves down early to the Wildcats. Mark McWhirter took advantage of a turnover 5 minutes, 23 seconds into the game and snuck the puck past Centaur keeper Colin Liscomb to take a lead SGWL would never relinquish.
Just 40 seconds later, Ben Begley tallied for the Wildcats and it was a 2-0 game at the end of the first period.
The Centaurs clawed back within one when Kyle Brennan made a length of the ice rush and put one over SGWL goalie Cam Begley’s right shoulder and inside the far post of the net.
“Those aren’t the ones you want, technically,” Bisson said of the goal. “You want team movement of the puck but, obviously, every now and then, you do accept those. We preach team play even with our lack of chemistry right now. We still want the puck moving to each other because that, ultimately, gets you better opportunities but when you get those and are feeling it coming up the ice, you take it.”
Unfortunately, the Centaurs found themselves down by two again when the Wildcats’ Elliot Demers won a faceoff to the left side of Kaden Keddy, who replaced Liscomb in the Woodstock Academy net halfway through the second period to get him some varsity minutes, and Demers was able to back hand one in with 1:03 left on the clock.
The Centaurs closed within one again just 3:17 into the final period when Guerin Favreau delivered a pass from behind the SGWL net to an oncoming Max Larkin who whistled one past Cam Begley.
Penalties, however, stymied any momentum the Centaurs may have had following that tally and the Wildcats sealed the victory when Sam Banever scored with 5:56 left.
Boys’ Basketball
The boys’ high school basketball season got started a little later than expected.
A major snowstorm struck the Northeast and postponed practice for a day last week.
It will not have an effect on the overall fitness of the team because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has mandated 15 practice days before the Centaurs can even play a game.
That means the season-opening game against Killingly, scheduled for Feb. 16, has been pushed back to March 8.
The Centaurs are now scheduled to open the season on the road on Feb. 19 at Windham.
“It’s plenty of time,” said Woodstock Academy coach Marty Hart. “There is a core of guys who have been very active and are ready to go. If we had to play (last week), we certainly could have. We will be in a lot better shape and dying for a game by that point, hopefully, it comes quickly.”
The Centaurs had 41 boys come out for the program and what made it even better for Hart was that the numbers were pretty evenly distributed amongst the grades.
Hart added that he spent little time on conditioning early as he tried to whittle down the numbers a bit through tryouts.
Conditioning is also being made a bit more difficult by the mandate for players to wear masks in practices and in games.
“We have to accommodate for that,” Hart said. “My solution has been to sub them out when I see them having difficulty with their masks and just giving them breaks. It’s kept them from having (the mask) accidentally fall below their nose. Unfortunately, we have to be very sticky about that because it can grow from there if you are not on it right away.”
A COVID-19 case on the team could mean a two-week pause and for a 10-game season that will last only 21 calendar days, a 14-day break means few games would be played.
“It isn’t two-day bites like the flu might be, it’s 14 days at a time with all close contacts and protocols. We just have to be as careful as we can be and hope for the best,” Hart said. “We can set an example while they are under our care, but once they leave the gym and go out into the community, we have to hope they continue to stay safe. We hope they realize the gravity of it all.”
The Centaurs will have a freshmen program but, due to a regional schedule, may not have many games to play. Hart said he does not plan to play freshmen at higher levels, choosing to keep the group together to better the bonding process.
Girls’ Basketball
The Woodstock Academy girls’ basketball team had about normal numbers come out for the first week of practice.
Coach Will Fleeton was happy to see 28 girls out for the program. “I expected it to be a little lower,” Fleeton admitted. “I wasn’t sure about participation and that sort of thing, so 28 is a solid number for two teams.”
Unlike the boys’ program, the girls will not field a freshmen team this season.
Fleeton said he will integrate the freshmen into the JV and varsity programs depending on skill level.
Conditioning was a concern for the first week of the season. “There were about four or five JV players from last year who finished (the season around the first couple of weeks of February). If they didn’t play in the fall, which a few didn’t, they haven’t been out for a year. That’s tough,” Fleeton said. “With them sitting on the shelf for that long, it’s pretty obvious that we’re a few legs behind, then, add a mask to the mix.”
Fleeton said his girls are doing well adjusting to the masks and he is allowing for more breaks to allow them to breathe.
“Masks restrict the air. It restricts my air, so I can imagine them running around. We will attack it with more rest, conditioning at a reasonable pace and come game time, more subs. Using more bodies may be more productive. Coaches may have to dig further into their benches because fatigue may be an issue,” Fleeton said.
Fleeton was happy to hear that his first game with Killingly, scheduled for Feb. 16, had been pushed back to March giving him more time to prepare for a season-opening home game Feb. 19 against Windham.
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy