Raider boys tough out a 72-66 overtime win over rival Naugatuck behind Davis and Villanueva.
TORRINGTON: The Torrington boys’ basketball team grew up a lot on Monday night.
On a night in which they were pulled, pushed, outhustled and outworked by rival Naugatuck for most of the first half, the Raiders faced the possibility that they would let a team they beat by 20 points in their first meeting to come into their home and snatch away a win.
Enter two sophomores, Tyreek Davis (30) and Joel Villanueva (17) who combined for 47 of their teams points in a gut check 72-66 overtime win over the Greyhounds that puts Torrington a win away from taking home the Iron Division title if they can get by Woodland at home on Friday.
The duo scored all of their teams points in the overtime that was made possible by a furious second half comeback that erased a 14-point deficit in the third quarter after the home team decided it was their turn to push back after a lackluster first half.
“They wanted it more at first,” Davis said. “But deep inside our gut, we knew we had to win that game.”
The Greyhounds used a punishing inside game led by Shane Swierbitowicz (14 points) and the brilliant shooting by another sophomore, Jean Lukau Mbalandaka who carried his team with 17 first half points.
This match-up is going to be fun to watch.
Two high powered, talented athletes from rival schools putting on scoring exhibitions over the next two plus years.
This was the win the Raiders needed. They had beaten the teams they should have beaten and even though they had handled the Greyhounds the first time around, needed to take the punch in the face and come back.
The mental toughness this team showed made their head coach very proud.
“Tonight, we were going to stand up and fight back,” Eric Gamari said. “I thought they (Naugatuck) came out with a lot of energy and emotion and I thought we were a little flat. We got comfortable at one point and started running sets.”
The Raiders forte this year has been their ability to go 10 deep, not lose much on the exchange and out run teams.
Not on Monday night as Naugatuck forced the home team to do something they had not shown a great penchant for this season by running an effective half-court offense.
The visitors took the lead in the second quarter, led by nine at the half at 36-27 then stretched the lead to the highest margin of 14 at 41-27 early in the third.
With their offense struggling, the Raiders turned up the defensive pressure with a little over five minutes left in the frame and proceeded to go on an 11-0 run, led by Davis who scored seven in the run.
After that blistering first half, Lukau Mbalandaka was held in check in the third, scoring just two points as the Greyhounds scored just nine as the Raiders got right back into the game.
The fourth quarter started with Naugatuck up 45-43 and went back and forth with neither team able to stretch the lead over three points.
Villanueva, who was a beast on the offensive boards down the stretch in this one, connected on a pair of three pointers in the frame with the last giving the home team a 59-57 lead.
Lukau Mbalandaka was up to the task of keeping his team alive and his long, NBA three-pointer knotted things at 62 with 1:12 to go.
Torrington chose to hold for one shot but could not connect as time ran out in regulation.
The overtime period belonged to the three sophomores, two from Torrington, one from Naugatuck.
A Lukau Mbalandaka drive was answered but one from Davis. 64-64.
Villanueva drove and was fouled with 2:29 left in the four-minute extra frame and made one of two before the Greyhounds talented forward found the bottom of the net one last time.
Davis grabbed an offensive rebound away from Swierbitowicz and converted to put his team up to stay, Villanueva did the same off the offensive glass the next time Torrington had the ball, was fouled and converted.
One final basket that was set up by a wicked cross-over move by Nick Dalla Valle sealed a very important win for a team that looks to close the deal on their second goal of the year and that’s taking home the Iron hardware on Friday night.