Holy Cross girls turn up heat late, overtake Torrington, 60-56.
TORRINGTON: For 24-minutes, the Torrington girls’ basketball team was firmly in control of a game against rival Holy Cross and a win over the Crusaders, even this early in the season, would have been a big statement for a somewhat inexperienced team looking to find their moxie.
Unfortunately for the Raiders though, they make you play all 32-minutes and those final 480 seconds of the last frame moved at a snail’s pace while the Crusaders were blitzing by at break neck speed on their way to a 60-56 win that saw the visitors outscore the home team by a 32-14 margin down the stretch.
‘We didn’t execute in the fourth quarter,” Fritch said. “They outrebounded us and they made foul shots. I told them at halftime that the game was going to be won at the foul line. We just succumbed to the pressure. We just couldn’t handle it.”
At first glance, this game looked like one Torrington was not quite ready for after their 51-47 win over Seymour in the season opener on Tuesday night on the road.
After all, the Crusaders had blown through Watertown by a 65-32 final in their home opener and had a pair of 5’10 players (Aiyana Ward and Meah Austin) on their front line and a demonstrative 5’2’ guard in Idalis Miranda.
Despite all that, it was the home team that broke out quickly to a 18-7 lead after one behind the play of senior Sidnee Kovall and junior Kayla Williams who each put up six points in the frame.
Standout Brie Pergola was dishing out assists while sophomore Alyssa Maraia (who dropped 22 in the Seymour game) showed nice touch on a jumper that capped an 11-0 run by the Raiders and things looked good.
The Crusaders famed full court, man to man defense was not turning this one into a turnover filled jail break and with 2:45 left in the half, the Torrington lead was 13 at 28-15 before a trend set in that would prove to be an omen.
Miranda, who scored a game high 25, had seven of those points in the second quarter as Cross took advantage of some sloppy play by the home team to end the frame on a 7-0 run to pull within six at the break at 28-22.
After the Crusaders got the lead down to three at 28-25 on a three-pointer from Gabby Goldman, Torrington rattled off a 14-3 run to go up by fourteen entering the fourth at 42-28.
How surprised was Holy Cross head coach Frank Lombardo at what had taken place until then?
“I was a little shocked,” Lombardo said. “Not that Torrington wasn’t a good team or that Torrington wasn’t going to play hard but I was shocked at our mental preparation. Our girls were not focused to play the game, they were a step behind and I don’t think it was because of Torrington’s pressure because they sat back in a 3-2 zone. I just think our mental focus was not where it should have been and that’s my fault. I did not prepare my girls well enough to play in this environment tonight.”
That all changed over the final eight minutes when Miranda (13 points in the quarter) and her teammates turned up the intensity to infinity after her coaches made some adjustments.
“We changed our defenses,” Lombardo said. “Instead of our full court normal man to man defense which is our staple but they did a great job in breaking it. We were not causing turnovers which is the best part of our game. We changed into a zone trapping defense and that really, really confused them. We got a couple of steals and the momentum turned, not only in the game but in the mind of my players and they felt they could overcome that deficit for that three or four-minute spurt.”
The changes caused chaos for the Raiders who struggled to get the ball in bounds, leading to a flurry of turnovers and that momentum change that Lombardo spoke of.
A 6-0 run turned into a 15-6 run and despite being given the chance to keep the Crusaders at arms-length by going to the free throw line 13 times, the Raiders hurt themselves by connecting on just eight of them during that critical juncture. Cross went 15-17 from the line in the quarter.
When Miranda went coast to coast, made the layup and was fouled with just over a minute to play, the visitors had the lead for good.
It was an almost kind of night for Fritch and his Raiders, one he hopes will lead to better things down the road.
“We’re young and inexperienced,” Fritch said. “We don’t see a lot of trapping and we just panicked. We have to learn from it. We just didn’t take ownership of the ball in the fourth quarter.”
Playing as well as they did and getting as close as they did to pulling off an early season upset must have some upside to it, according to their leading scored on Friday night.
“We know what we have to do next,” Pergola said. “We got a little hesitant and wound up during the press but I think next time we’ll know how to handle that.”