Raiders and Crusaders to meet in NVL finals after posting semi-final wins.
Torrington's All-NVL Team members. Brie Pergola, Brittany Anderson and Paige Middleton. The Raiders moved on to the NVL finals with a 45-42 win over Kennedy. Photo by Mic Nicosia.
WATERBURY: It wasn’t supposed to be this hard.
The last time the Torrington Raiders took on the Kennedy Eagles, they came away with an easy 25-point win at home.
On Monday night in the Naugatuck Valley League semi-finals, the Raiders found out just how different the post season is.
It’s a different world this time of the year, what you thought might work in a regular season game when you have ab off day, may just cost you a spot in the finals. You think a little harder before you take the shot, you may tend to squeeze the ball a little tighter when you’re at the free throw line.
Despite shooting poorly and having trouble hitting free throws, the number two seed got by a very determined Eagles team by a 45-42 final that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer.
“We were lucky to get away with a win,” Raiders head coach Mike Fritch said. “We didn’t execute well, we didn’t shoot well and we didn’t shoot free throws well.”
Aside from those minor details, everything went rosy for the now 21-1 Raiders who will play in the final everybody wanted when they take on the top seed, Holy Cross who took care of Crosby by a 56-36 final.
Neither team in the final played their best game to get to this point.
In the opener, the Raiders developed and allergy to the charity stripe, making just 9 of 21 shots, including a terrible four of twelve in the fourth quarter when they had a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Eagles.
Perhaps it was a case of a of final being pre-ordained between the one and two seeds, trouble was, somebody forgot to tell the home standing Eagles who opened up the first quarter with four, three pointers to stay right with the Raiders at 12-12 after one.
Kennedy, fresh off a win over St Paul on Saturday in the opener, were riding a wave of emotion and came out as the team with an edge and will grow from this effort.
“To lose to a team by 25 the last time we played and then play this well,” head coach Jen Hanson said. “I could not be more proud of this team. We are still very young and will be a better team next year.”
With a sub-par shooting effort from the number two seed from the north, it was a player they don’t usually count on for offense who came through with a pair of three pointers and nine points overall to support the efforts of Brie Pergola (17) and Paige Middleton (11).
Shelby Howe, who took over at point with her sister, Taylor in foul trouble, hit a second quarter trey when her team’s offense was stuck in the mud.
Late in the third quarter with her team clinging to a one point lead at 28-27, Howe launched another long ball that gave the Raiders a four point lead entering the final frame.
Torrington would need every point as they simply could not connect from the charity stripe.
The Crusaders jumped out to a fast 18-8 lead after a quarter but then went into a scoring drought for the first four minutes of the second. Lucky for them, the Bulldogs couldn’t find the bottom of the basket during the stretch either.
Cross simply had too many weapons for the Bulldogs with the scoring of Rashina Siders (21) and Century McCartney (15) to go along with a solid effort in keeping the Bulldogs offense at bay.
“Our defense was pretty good tonight,” Crusader head coach Frank Lombardo said, “We forced a lot of tough shots and didn’t foul much.”
In the team’s first meeting this season, an overtime thriller ended with the Crusaders on top by a 69-66 final in overtime.
Both coaches would take 10 games a year against each other, they seem to bring out the best of what each program has to offer.
On Wednesday night at Sacred Heart, one thing is for certain. The Raiders will have to bring the kind of effort they did against St. Paul ad Watertown over the last month, not the one they put forth against the Eagles.