Breaking down the game winning defensive stand in the NVL Title game. How Torrington did it.
WATERBURY: Only 7.7 seconds remained in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s Naugatuck Valley League Tournament Championship game.
The Holy Cross Crusaders had the ball, under their own basket with a chance to win the game and crown with a bucket or at least send it to overtime if they were fouled and made just one free throw.
On the court for the Raiders: Shelby Howe, Brie Pergola, Paige Middleton, Kendra Covington and Brittany Anderson.
For the Crusaders: RaShana Siders, Caitlin Cipriano, Aiyana Ward, Casey Dizinno and Century McCartney.
The ball is inbounded by Dizinno, to McCartney on the right side (looking towards the play) as Dizinno makes her way cross court for a potential three point try, she has hit three so far in the game.
McCartney is immediately confronted by Howe and Middleton, forcing her out of the corner and out towards the top of the key.
Siders, who already has 19 points and had taken over the offensive show for the Crusaders in the second half, cuts from under the basket to the same corner McCartney came from, but Middleton jumps out to deny the pass while Howe stays with the freshman.
McCartney is forced to come up with a different idea and gets the ball to Ward at the foul line with her back to the basket, while Pergola is in front of her and Covington behind.
Keeping either of those two players (Siders and McCartney) from taking the final shot was key for Torrington.
Because of the stifling defense early in the possession, five seconds have run off the clock when Ward starts towards the basket, but with Covington in perfect position, right arm raised, forcing Ward out farther than she might of liked, the shot attempt hits the back of rim and comes across the front and back in the air.
Cipriano gets the offensive rebound, but the video clearly lets you hear the horn sound when the ball hits her hands, not as she puts the put back up.
The celebration is on and the Raiders have their second NVL title in the past three years. They beat Watertown two years ago in similar dramatic fashion when Megan Calabrese hit a runner with four seconds left to play.
Head coach Mike Fritch points also to a play that didn’t happen right before the winning defensive stand as key to setting up the last one.
“They had to call time out the first time they tried to get the ball in,” Fritch said. “They were trying to get the ball to Siders, who was coming off a double screen and would have been all by herself, but Shelby stepped out to deny the inbound.”
Another huge play by a player who only started to see significant playing time over the last two weeks when her sister Taylor was ill and missed a couple of games.
Shelby Howe would score 13 points, none bigger than a three-pointer that she nailed after Cross had taken a four-point lead at 51-47 with just over four minutes left in the fourth.
It can’t be overstated that this Torrington team may not bedazzle you with offensive outburst based on skill alone (with the exception of Pergola), but make no mistake, nobody will outwork or out hustle them at any point in any game.
We have seen them rise to the occasion several times this year, the first time in a big road win over St. Paul, and the second time on Wednesday night in a game for the biggest bragging rights trophy the NVL has to offer.