A look back at the Top 10 Games that defined the remarkable Raiders boys basketballl campaign.
TORRINGTON: The Torrington boys basketball team gave their fans a terrific ride in 2018/2019, culminating in their first semi-final appearance in the State Tournament since back in 2009.
The Connie Donahue Gymnasium was a loud and energetic place once again and because of that, a large headache for those who came to challenge the Raiders on the hardwood.
Torrington broke through and posted 19 wins during the campaign while earning a spot in the final of the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament and that semi-final berth in the Division III States.
It was some kind of season. Here’s a look back at the Top 10 games.
One: Torrington 90, Holy Cross 59: In their home opener on December 18, the Raiders blew past the Crusaders behind 25 points from Joel Villanueva, 24 from Tyreek Davis and 14 each from Dontae Thomas and Kevin Dixon.
After a 13-13 first quarter, Torrington showed their explosiveness with a 28-point second quarter that put them up 41-30 at the break. A 14-2 run to start the third made this one a laugher and put teams on notice that the Raiders “O” was the real deal.
Two: Crosby 77, Torrington 72. January 2. A perfect example of how a loss can be seen as a win. The Raiders led most of this home game before falling victim to the Bulldogs ball trap during two sequences that led to turnovers that were the difference in the game.
Learning to handle and break the press and ball traps became a signature strength of this team and they can thank Nick Augelli and Crosby for helping them improve on a weakness.
Three: Wolcott 93, Torrington 87: January 8. After this road loss, in a game that the Raiders led big in the first quarter, Torrington had a 4-3 record. After learning the lesson of not letting an opponent back in the game when they were down, they would go on to beat the Eagles the next two times they met, one in the NVL Tournament.
They would also post an 11-2 record after this game.
Four: Torrington 61, WCA 58: On January 23, the Raiders hosted Marquan Watson and Waterbury Career Academy with Davis coming off the bench to lead his team with 22 points to hold off Watson (26 points/22 boards), who had a monster night on his way to a monster season.
The trio of Davis, Villanueva and Thomas accounted for 58 of the home teams 61 points.
Five: Torrington 57, Wolcott 47: February 7. The Raiders earned a split with the Eagles behind 21 points from Davis and 17 from Villanueva at home as they tightened up their defense, holding Wolcott to 46 less points than in the two teams last meeting.
Elmin Redzedasic, one of the top scorers in the NVL this season had a game high 27 but was held to just six in the second half when they Raider “D” stood up.
Six: Torrington 98, Kennedy 60: On Senior Night and Valentines Day, the Raiders turned an early close game into a blowout with a 55-point second half.
It gave Torrington a 3-1 mark against Waterbury teams and showed that if you wanted to run against the Raiders, you did so at your own risk because the conditioning they did early in the season gave them a clear advantage against running teams.
The Big Three, Davis (26), Villanueva (24) and Thomas (20), led the way as the Raiders ended their regular season home schedule with an 8-1 mark.
Seven: Torrington 58, Wolcott 56. Naugatuck Valley League Tournament Quarterfinals: This was the game that the Raiders needed. Getting out of the first game of the NVL’s had eluded this group of seniors during their careers and after falling behind 41-26 early in the third quarter, it looked as if the streak would continue.
They would though, stage a remarkable comeback, outscoring the Eagles by a 32-20 mark in the second half and took the lead for good on a Thomas signature tear-drop bucket with 20.6 second remaining.
Villanueva held Redzedasic to seven, second half points as the Raiders once again used their defensive efforts to get back in a game.
Eight: Torrington 95, Crosby 83. NVL semi-finals. In their most complete game of this campaign, the Raiders overcame a 42-point effort by Kerwin Prince by simply out running and out gunning the Bulldogs while handling the ball traps that had haunted them in the teams first meeting.
Davis was tremendous with 35 points while Villanueva pitched in with 19 and CJ Root added 15 on five, three-pointers.
Every time Crosby attempted to get back in the game, the Raiders had an offensive answer despite a swarming defensive effort by the Bulldogs.
A calmness had taken over this team, helping them work through the press whenever they faced it.
Nine: Torrington 72, Stratford 47. Division III Second Round. Senior CJ Root turned up the defensive pressure in the second half of a tight home game to help the Raiders to an important state tournament win.
Dixon had a strong game with 20 points while Villanueva added 19 and Root 10.
Root disrupted the Stratford offense with deflections and steals that led to a relatively easy win once the Torrington offense got rolling.
Ten: Torrington 73, West Haven 58: The Connie Donahue was as loud as it had been in many a year as the Raiders won their 11th home game behind an outstanding effort from the five seniors, who accounted for all the team’s points.
With the win, the Raiders earned a spot in the Final Four for the first time since the 2009 season.
Thomas (18), Villanueva (17), Davis (16), Dixon (14) and Root (8) ended their high school careers in style by doing what they did best; run.
The Blue Devils were no match for the conditioning of Torrington and were visibly gassed in the second quarter.
Root continued his stellar defense that fueled the Raiders offense.
It was a night that the five seniors simply refused to lose on and helped them go down as one of the best teams to play at Torrington High School in many a year.
NOTES: The Raiders finished with a 19-7 mark.
The “Crazies” were back in force inside the Connie Donahue Gymnasium as the student section became a factor once again in being a strong sixth man for the home team.
Coach Eric Gamari and his staff have built a strong program, one based on conditioning, something that paid big dividends down the stretch.
The future is bright for Torrington.
Can’t wait until next year!