Behind Thomas and Villanueva, Raiders roll over Oxford, 83-43.
TORRINGTON: The Torrington boys basketball teams record sits at 5-3 after an easy one on Friday night, an 83-43 win over Oxford behind 23 points from Dontae Thomas and 15 from Joel Villanueva.
They also enter a fairly easy part of their schedule with the next three games against Litchfield (4-3) on the road, Watertown (1-6) at home and Woodland (4-5) in Beacon Falls.
The Raiders were coming off a tough road loss to Wolcott, the surprise team in the Naugatuck Valley League so far this year, in a game they led 20-6 in the first quarter before falling, 93-87.
So, coming into their game against the Wolverines (2-6), head coach Eric Gamari decided to change things up a bit by asking his senior leaders to step up and carry the load a bit more.
Gamari moved Thomas back to the point and it paid immediate dividends as the senior came out aggressive from the start, with eight first quarter points as Torrington raced out to a 22-10 lead after one.
Matt Rylander got his first start of the campaign in the backcourt which allowed the Raiders to move C J Callabrese off the ball and into the front court and it worked like a charm.
Their ball movement was tremendous in the first half and the game got away from the visitors quickly as they trailed at the half by a 55-24 margin.
Overall, their head coach was pleased with their effort.
“I thought our effort was better,” Gamari said. “I thought our concentration was better and I thought our defensive effort was better, we just played at another gear.”
The switch to the point seemed to fit Thomas (who left the game with 2:23 left in the third with what appeared to be a sprained ankle but should be okay) to a “T” as the offense had a great flow to it.
“He’s (Thomas) had really good practices this year,” Gamari said. “Sometimes it just hasn’t shown in games but tonight by putting him at the point, he was able to lead.”
All the Raiders weapons were on display on Friday night. C J Root came off the bench to score 13 points (4, 3-points) while Zach McLaughlin played tough inside and added 10 points of his own.
The addition of Rylander gave the Raiders five starters who could run the court or control the ball when needed and in his first start this year, Rylander scored eight points.
Getting his team to play at the high pace they did tonight for 32 minutes has at times been a challenge for the head coach who wants to see his team become more consistent.
“We’ve just got to compete the whole time and keep our composure,” Gamari said. “Just show how good we are constantly. I think we have done it in glimpse this year, but we need to do it consistently.”
The Raiders have a chance to open up their record over the next week and could come into a game against Waterbury Career Academy (3-4) on January 23 with an 8-3 mark.
They face back to back tough games as they travel to take on rival Naugatuck (5-5) after WCA, after just getting by the Greyhounds by a 47-46 score earlier this year.
Torrington has lost two NVL games this season, both games that one could say were winnable contests.
They had that big lead against Wolcott before falling and led Crosby most of the night in an eventual 77-72 loss that came down to a pair of defensive stretches by the Bulldogs that made the difference in the contest.
They take on the Eagles again, this time at home in early February and that could go along way to determining who rules the Iron Division of the NVL this year.