Cerruto's 3-pointer leads Raiders into NVL finals.....
WATERBURY- The Naugatuck Greyhound girls’ basketball team had handed the Torrington Raiders squad one of their toughest losses in a first round, Class L state tournament game back in 2007 by a 58-54 score.
This after the Raiders team had demolished the Valley team by 40 points in the team’s second regular season game that season.
It was one of the most shocking turnarounds either program had ever experienced.
With a valiant effort in the semi-finals of the Naugatuck Valley League tournament on Monday night at Kennedy High School, the Greyhounds nearly did it again.
Torrington has followed a similar script this season versus the Greyhounds, posting double digit wins in both victories and came in a large favorite.
After jumping out to a 10-0 score halfway through the first quarter, the Raiders seemed well on their way to another meeting on Wednesday night against their top rival, Holy Cross (the Crusaders beat up on Ansonia by a 72-50 score in the other semi).
Trouble was, the Raiders took their foot off the accelerator and the Greyhounds raced right back in, true to their name.
Only a late defensive stand and a key three-pointer by senior guard Mariah Cerruto allowed the Raiders to escape Waterbury with a 42-41 win and a trip to the finals.
It’s Round III of Torrington and Holy Cross, the two teams everybody thought would get together on Wednesday.
The party was almost spoiled by a Naugatuck team who believed what their coach told them before they took the court on Monday night.
“I brought the book from the 2007 game,” head coach Jodie Ruccio said. “I told them that it could be done and that one of the players on the court tonight. Lauren Piroscafo hit a basket that gave us that final margin.”
It sure didn’t look like it was going to be much of a game through the first 4:02 seconds of the first quarter when the Raiders hit the Greyhounds with everything they had on the way to that 10-0 lead.
Alyssa Otis (game high 17 points) banged down underneath for five points while Caycee Williams (10 points) added a pair of buckets and Nicole Kozlak drained a three.
On defense, Kozlak had a three blocks in the opening quarter while Cerruto and Williams came up with steals.
Late in the first quarter, head coach Mike Fritch rested most of his starters and the Greyhounds took advantage by climbing back within six at 14-8 after one.
“After we got that big lead.” Fritch said. “We stopped playing.”
Naugatuck had not though, and kept coming at a Raiders team that had a hard time revving up the engines in the second quarter.
“We started strong but kind of backed off after that.” Otis said. “We have to do a better job at staying on top of a team and not let them back in.”
Naugatuck sophomore Angelina Piccirillo (team high 11 points) drained a trey to bring her team back to within one at 17-16 and you could feel the confidence on the Greyhounds sideline grow.
At the half, the two teams were tied 22-22. Torrington did not make a field goal the entire second quarter, connecting on just eight of 14 free throws in the frame.
As the second half began, Otis took to the offensive once again, as she did when the game began.
The senior, who earned All Naugatuck Valley Team honors after the game, scored on two drives to the iron and help from Williams, who scored on an inside move as well.
When Caroline Teti drove through the trees inside for a nifty lay-up, the Raiders completed an 8-2 run to go back up by a 30-24 score.
Naugatuck though, would not go away without a fight on this night.
An impressive 11-0 run gave them a 35-30 lead at the end of three.
Torrington failed to score in the final four minutes of the period and the ghosts of 2007 may have been surrounding the Eagles home gym.
Otis once again took her team on her shoulders as the final eight minutes got under way, scoring on a pair of conventional three-pointers and another bucket for all eight of her teams point with just over three minutes to go.
Piccirillo, not to be outdone, scored on a jumper and a long three pointer to put her team ahead 40-38 with just over two minutes to play.
The Raiders were in need of a big shot and got one from Cerruto, who had been quiet most of the night.
Cerruto set up near her bench beyond the arch and drained a critical three that gave her team the lead for good at 41-40.
Torrington could have made their lives easier if they hit their free throws down the stretch when the Greyhounds were forced to foul but missed on the front end of two, one and one opportunities.
Piroscafo, who made history for her team in her freshman year, was only able to connect on one of two free throws she got with 28 seconds to go and the Raiders held Naugy without a good look over the last 11.4 seconds to go to keep the dream date on for the finals.