Kennedy upsets Torrington, 55-48 in OT.
TORRINGTON: Sometimes it’s hard to fathom, this high school sports scene, especially this time of the year in the cruel reality that is the one and done of the State Tournament.
You can try and figure out who’s going to win based on an assortment of factors. Records, how you faired against the particular opponent when you saw them last, talent and maybe even a home court advantage.
On Thursday night in the Connie Donahue Gymnasium, it came down to something one can't measure with any statistic or number, but by effort and coming ready to play.
One team came with a healthy dose of both and left with an upset win over a team that had beaten them twice, once by 25 points early in the season.
The No. 19 Kennedy Eagles outplayed, outhustled and outwilled the higher seed, No. 3 Torrington, and keep their campaign alive thanks to a gritty, if not pretty, 55-48 overtime win over the Raiders.
“Our girls played physical, they played hard,” Eagles head coach Jen Deeley said. “We’re playing great basketball at the right time of the year.”
In a game where 58 free throws were attempted (44 by Kennedy, 14 by Torrington) you could tell this was a bumping, grinding kind of game.
For the Raiders, as good as they looked against Holy Cross in a thrilling 56-55 win in the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament, they looked that much out of sorts against the Eagles for the second time in less than two weeks.
In their 45-42 semifinal win, Torrington also looked off against a team that lost eight regular season games, but seems to have the ability to throw the Raiders off course.
What is it about the Eagles that seems to work against Torrington?
“I think working harder than them,” junior guard Lynadia Whiting said. “We try and outwork them. We always fall short of that so putting our hearts into it was everything.”
Whiting, all 5’0”, has been a thorn in the Raiders side in both recent meetings, and the hard work that she talked about was evident all game.
Kennedy got to every loose ball first, and it found the handle on every offensive rebound that slipped out of the Raiders hands.
The Raiders got hurt early with foul trouble that put sophomore star Brie Pergola on the bench with two fouls with Paige Middleton not far behind.
From the outset, the visitors, just as they had in the NVL semis, came out the aggressor and jumped out to an 8-2 lead.
The home team didn’t make a basket until Pergola (14 points) hit a jumper with four minutes left in the first. The smooth, crisp play that was featured in the Holy Cross game was nowhere to be found.
Kennedy had Torrington playing Eagles basketball in front of the largest crowd to see a girl’s game this season.
Only a 12-3 run, fueled by three pointers by Taylor Howe and Pergola, righted the ship for the moment for the home team, who led 14-11 after one and 22-19 at the half.
Sarah Norwood led all scorers with 19 points, including three long balls, each coming at a time that the Raiders were trying to stretch the lead.
At no point did you feel the Eagles were going to go on a run, but you didn’t sense that from Torrington either, thanks to double figure turnovers in both halfs.
Torrington’s offense simply never got on track, for reasons unknown.
“The matchups just don’t work against them,” Raider head coach Mike Fritch said. “We just couldn’t run anything. We got beat by a better team tonight.”
Still, thanks to some horrendous free throw shooting by the Eagles (3-14), Torrington had a chance to go up with six seconds left in regulation when Caitlin Cornish sank the first of a one-and-one to knot things at 42.
Cornish would miss and the game went into extras and in the overtime, the Eagles found their stroke at the free throw line just enough to steal a road win.
A disappointing end to a terrific, overachieving season that saw the Raiders post a 22-2 overall record, which came with their second NVL Tournament crown in the last three years.
The Eagles move on to play No. 11 Northwest Catholic, which upset No. 6 Bristol Eastern by a 66-64 final.