Kennedy too much for Raiders in NVL quarters as they fall, 104-68.
WATERBURY, WILBY HIGH SCHOOL: The Torrington boys basketball team has won most of the games it should've this year, but on Saturday, it was trying to do something for the first time this year - beat a school with a Waterbury street address.
The Raiders had come close in the last game of the regular season when they lost to Holy Cross by just three, 68-65.
In the quarterfinals of the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament on Saturday, the Raiders faced off with the high-flying Eagles from Kennedy High School and for eight minutes, trailed by just two at 22-20 after one.
After a stern wake-up call from their head coach Ryan Sullivan, the Eagles took flight with a stellar and tough-to-beat ball trap/press that took the Raiders out of their offense and eventually out of the game in a 104-68 loss.
Five Eagles scored in double figures, led by a 23-point effort from Ty Sands as Kennedy outscored Torrington in the second and third quarters by a 48-26 margin to secure a place in the semifinals.
Torrington, filled with confidence after the close loss to rival Holy Cross, came out with a sense of urgency, and, behind a nine-point first quarter from sophomore Joel Villanueva, led by a 17-12 mark with 3:38 left in the frame.
Villanueva has become a force inside as the year went on and will be a difference maker in his junior year as well if he continues to develop.
Kennedy closed the quarter on a 10-3 run, though, and went ahead after the first eight were in the books.
It was near the end of the first that Sullivan put the ball trap in place and it flustered the Raiders into multiple turnovers that turned the game around.
“We went man in the first quarter,” Sullivan said. “I thought their (his team) legs would get moving, but I guess not and we saw that Torrington was just killing us in their half-court offense. So, when we switched that, I thought that was the change right there our defense created our offense.”
Following their 20-point first quarter, the relentless defense of the Eagles held Torrington to just 10 in the next eight minutes and the lead started to add up. Before you knew it, it was 42-30 at the half and getting away from the Raiders in a hurry.
The pressure was too much for Torrington too handle, something that disappointed head coach Eric Gamari.
“We didn’t mentally focus,” Gamari said. “We went over the trap during practice and knew what we wanted to do, but did the exact opposite. We didn’t make good reads and we panicked.”
When watching these two teams, the difference between what works for the Raiders in the games they won this year versus the losses is stark.
Those long, cross-court passes to find an open teammate get knocked away or stolen against a fast and long Kennedy team that can get from one spot to another in a big hurry.
The Raiders' 10-man rotation was no match for the quickness and athleticism of the Eagles, who attack the rim or hit from the outside (five three-pointers) with equal ease.
Torrington can play up above the rim, but the Eagles are also relentless on the boards and can wear you down as the game goes on.
Once the lead ballooned up to 20 at 54-34 midway through the third quarter, the Raiders, aside from sophomore Tyreek Davis, had no answers.
Davis was the one player on the court who could stay with any of the Eagles players, but could not do it all. The good news is that he will be on these courts for another two years after a marvelous first year playing for the Raiders.
He would finish with 20 points.
Torrington will be in the upcoming Class L State Tournament that begins on March 3 with an anticipated first round matchup with Career Magnet out of New Haven on the road.
The lessons are still being tAught to this young team. One can just hope they take the what they've learned and apply it once March rolls in.