Flashback to 2017. Torrington boys' basketball makes loud opening statement with 82-74 win over Crosby behind Dontae Thomas.
TORRINGTON: Wake up Naugatuck Valley League boys' basketball teams.
The first volley of the season has been thrown by the Torrington Raiders boys basketball team who made a major statement in an 82-74 win over Crosby before a boisterous crowd that will grow in size and throat if the Raiders continue to play at this level.
Senior guard Dante Thomas was unstoppable at times on Tuesday night in the Raiders home opener, connecting on five three-pointers on the way to a 25-point night.
When the 2017-2018 schedule came out and the first opponent was a team from Waterbury that the team from the Northwest Corner had not beaten since the 2009/2010 season, it looked like less than an ideal first game.
With the win, Torrington breaks a 12-game losing streak against the Nick Augelli and the Bulldogs, one that dates back to January 12, 2010 when the Desmond Williams led Raiders prevailed in a 73-70 win at home.
Coming into the night, the Raiders had planned to unveil a new twist to their offense, one that had worked pretty well under former head coach Tony Turina, who was in pre-season camp with Gamari, working on an offense predicated on taking boatloads of shots.
90 or so was the goal.
More importantly than the shots was who was taking them and from where with the emphasis on the two guard, which was Thomas who found himself open throughout the first half when he scored 14-points, including four of his five three-pointers.
The Raiders have been a running team for years now, they struggle in the half court offense, so this fast paced but designed offense passed it's first test with flying colors because it was run under control, led by senior guard Richy Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was a master at the point all night, picking the right reads even when presented with pressure from a ball trap, a Crosby specialty.
"We pushed tempo," Rodriguez said. "And got exactly what we wanted."
His ability to find Thomas was critical all night.
"I've been playing with him (Thomas) for a while," Rodriguez said. "He's on my AAU team so when I kick it out to him, I have confidence in his shot."
The Bulldogs relied heavily on the long ball on Tuesday night, connecting on 11 of them, five by senior guard Ivan Craig who presented matchup problems at 6'3".
After a tightly played first quarter that ended with the visitors up by two at 17-15, Thomas caught fire, leading an 11-0 run by the home team with consecutive treys that had the Connie Donahue rocking like it hasn't in quiet some time.
The senior sharp shooter gave credit to others for his big night.
"It's all my teammates," Thomas said. "I depend on them and I'm always going to give them 100 percent every time."
When Hunter Murphy (18 points, four three's) sank a three and followed it up with another bucket on a drive, the Raiders had opened up their biggest lead at 33-26, forcing Augelli to take a time out to settle his team.
The Bulldogs would end the half outscoring Torrington by a 16-9 margin and the two teams went into the locker room tied at 42.
Torrington used a strong third quarter, led by two more three-pointers from Murphy, whose shot had looked great all of the pre-season, that ignited a 14-2 run that pushed the lead late in the frame to 62-51.
Crosby scored the last five of the quarter with Craig hitting a three at the buzzer to pull the visitors back to within just six at 62-56 as the final frame started.
As the fourth began, one play that might have derailed the Raiders in years passed and propelled the Bulldogs turned out to be a punch-counter punch that was the difference in the game.
Off a breakaway, Bulldog Kerwin Prince got loose on a fast break and threw down a thunderous slam that clearly ignited his team and cut the Raiders lead to 64-61.
Showing the senior leadership that Gamari has been looking for though, Rodriguez ignored the potential momentum swing by driving to the basket with authority through the Crosby front line for a basket and was fouled.
The reaction from the point guard and the pointing to the name on the jersey spoke volumes and sent a message to the Bulldogs that this was not going to be their night.
Crosby would get as close as two at 68-66 but as was the case all night, the home team had an answer and once again it was the two guard, Thomas who nailed another long ball to stretch the lead again.
The drama wasn't done though, not by any means.
With 3:38 left to play, Crosby got a trey from Justin Davis to get back to 73-71 and after Rodriguez hit one of two free throws for the home team, he went down with a cramp going for a steal as the Bulldogs worked down the court.
With senior Jordan Henneberry (six points) unavailable due to an ankle injury, Gamari put in sophomore Justin Mattiello while Rodriguez rested.
Talk about a pressure situation.
Augelli and the Bulldogs went right after the sophomore as he got the ball put he kept his poise, got a tough shot off and was fouled.
With the steel of a seasoned veteran though, Mattiello drained both freebies and the Raiders would not be tested again, pulling off a confidence building early season match up against a team always in the mix at the top of the NVL and a headache for the Raiders.
Not this time though, not this night.