Mancini (31) leads the Raiders over Naugatuck, 71-64.
TORRINGTON: It’s not always about how many points you score, it’s if you hit them at just the right time - little daggers along the way that help keep your opponent at arms-length.
That was the situation Torrington’s Zak Mancini found himself in on multiple occasions on Monday night as he poured in 31 points and helped the Raiders post an impressive 71-64 win over their rival from the Valley, Naugatuck.
Mancini, who is playing the best basketball of his career, was simply unstoppable most of the night, connecting on six three-pointers, each with a special meaning at a critical time in a fast paced, rough and tumble Naugatuck Valley League battle.
“Throw the records out,” Torrington coach Eric Gamari said, “They’re going to come in fired up, we’re going to be fired up. I though our guys showed tremendous energy tonight at times.”
The Mancini night began with a 10-point opening frame with a pair of threes that allowed the home team to race out to a 15-5 lead. A 9-2 run to end the quarter, though, brought the Greyhounds back to within four after one.
Naugatuck (3-7) began the second quarter as they ended the first, this time on a 9-3 run to take their first lead at 24-22 after Steve Marinaro drained a three with 5:39 to go.
Mancini had picked up his second foul late in the first and spent time on the bench as the visitors worked their way into the lead.
The two teams traded buckets until the Raiders went back up on a put back by Connor Finn. A Finn free throw on their next time down was set up by some terrific hustle by the senior leader on the boards for a 31-29 lead.
Mancini would find his second critical part of the game when he took a pass off an offensive rebound by teammate Jake Boccio (8 points) and drained a long three to push the lead to 34-29, that arms-length.
What has made the senior so good so far this year from the outside?
“It’s a confidence thing,” Mancini said. “When I hit one, I think I can hit the next and it just goes on. My team does their best to get me the ball, but if somebody else is open, we get the ball to them to get hot.”
The Raiders went into the break up five at 38-33 and had withstood a pair of runs by Naugatuck in the opening 16 minutes but more would be coming.
Torrington opened the third with buckets from Mancini (a jumper) and Finn off a great pass from his favorite target on the gridiron.
Naugatuck brought heavy pressure at times on Monday night and its effectiveness led to a 6-0 run to bring them back to within three at 42-39.
Enter Mancini and his latest three ball, this time while under some serious duress.
Arms-length maintained, once again.
His own personal 8-0 run at that key juncture was huge for the Raiders and shows the maturity the upperclassmen brings to the table in year four.
“I have more experience in that spot,” Mancini said. “I’m calm so I want to take that shot.”
As you would expect by now, the Greyhounds would not go away and got back to within two at 58-56 after opening the final quarter on a 7-2 run.
This time Mancini got help from a Boccio bucket which he followed up with his fifth arms-length long ball, his 30th point of the night and a 63-56 lead.
Down the stretch, the Raiders made seven of eight free throws, the first two by Jason Vinisko, who gave Gamari some physical play on both ends of the court on Monday.
David White put forth another strong effort with 12 points, two from the charity stripe when the ‘Hounds were forced to foul late.
The win marks the first time the Raiders have been able to put together back-to-back wins this year and the chemistry is starting to work.
“We are making progress,” Gamari said. “I think we can be better defensively because that’s what we are going to have to hang our hat on. We don’t shoot a high percentage all the time so if we don’t defend, we are going to struggle.”
It’s off to Bristol to take on St. Paul on Wednesday night before the Raiders host Wilby on Friday night at the Connie Donahue Gymnasium.
Torrington 71, Naugatuck 64
Naugatuck 15 18 16 15 64
Torrington 19 19 18 15 71
Naugatuck (64): Antoine Sistrunk 7-3-17, Andre Trosan 1-0-2, James Mesidor 5-3-13, Fejiro Onakpoma 5-3-13, Steve Marinaro 3-2-11, Mike Plasky 3-0-8, Totals: 24-11-64
Torrington (71): Zak Mancini 12-1-31, Nick Dalla Valle 1-1-5, Jason Vinisko 3-2-8, Connor Finn 3-1-7, Jake Boccio 3-2-8, Jordan Henneberry 1-0-2, David White 4-2-12: Totals: 28-8-71
3-pointers: (N) Marinaro 3, Plasky. (T) Mancini 6, Dalla Valle
Records: Naugatuck 3-7, Torrington 6-5