Print this story

Raiders girls basketball falls in OT to Naugy but gives glimpse of the future.

POSTED January 03, 2020
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: I heard something Friday night during the Torrington girls 55-46 overtime loss to rival Naugatuck that I had not head in a good long time from Raider head coach Mike Fritch as he talked about this young, gritty team.

“I absolutely love this team,” Fritch aid as he watched his girls battle a taller Greyhound team down the wire in regulation, nearly pulling out the win when a Marissa Burger runner nearly banked in with time running out.

The affection that the long-time head coach spoke about is easy to see when you watch this group that is made up of very, and I mean very, young players.

Freshman accounted for 29 of the teams 46 points, led by Leah Pergola with 20 and Marissa Burger with nine.

They play hard, they’re tough, they don’t quit and they don’t like losing, traits you love to see in any team.

Against the larger Greyhounds team, led by sophomore Sara Macary (she’ll be rough for another two and a half years) with 25 points, the Raiders were forced to foul and the visitors made them pay, connecting on 25 of 36 freebies.

Macary made 11 of 12.

The Connie Donahue Gymnasium was as loud as I have heard it for a girls game in many a year and with the way these players are developing their skill set in real time, it should be that way the rest of 2020 and for the next three years.

There is so much to like about what Raider fans saw three days into the New Year, starting with Pergola, the younger sister of Brie who is now having an outstanding season at the University of New Haven.

The freshman, who came off the bench tonight, has a very high basketball IQ and court awareness that goes well beyond her ninth-grade status.

Pergola liked what she saw from her teammates as well.  

“I like the intensity that we brought,” Pergola said, “We had a lot of good shots.”

The floor general position seems to have been taken by Burger who has a command presence and a deep desire to succeed and appreciated the high intensity response from the Raider faithful.

“Honestly, it pumps us up (the crowd noise),” Burger said, “It makes us want to win and play better.”

After falling behind 6-2 midway through the opening quarter, the home team went on a 9-4 run to end the frame up 11-10.

Pergola drained her first three while senior Olivia Smith, Burger and junior Maddie McLaughlin all contributed.

Little things that seem to come natural with this group were on display during that small portion of the game including a terrific box out by Pergola on a ball going out of bounds off a Naugy player, a nice offensive put back underneath by Burger and a great pass by Pergola on the Mclaughlin bucket.

Macary scored her team first six points of the second quarter before Torrington went on a 7-0 run to take their biggest lead at 22-16.

Burger, Pergola and freshman Brianna Murelli (3-pointer) led the charge and pushed the volume up in the crowd as well.

Believe is a funny thing. This team may be young but they know each other well, as Burger explained.

“I’ve played with all these girls since I was really little,” Burger said, “So I think it’s really cool that we get to play together in high school.”

Over the next four plus minutes though, the Raiders went cold and the Greyhounds went to the foul line, 15 times to be exact, connecting on 10 of them to go up 27-24 at the break.

Still, considering the visitors had spent the final half of the quarter at the charity stripe, the Raiders had to be encouraged.

Even as the foul totals added up (at one point, four THS players added their third foul on consecutive plays in the third) and the Naugatuck lead grew to 32-26 at one point, the fight and determination never left.

Buckets by McLaughlin and Pergola (the latter coming off a terrific press break and assist from Murelli) made it a four-point lead at 34-30.

The frame in regulation showed the potential of this team to the home faithful and should not have been a surprise to the team themselves after they had come back from 14 down in their eventual forfeit to WCA in the season opener.

They have the fight and went on a 10-0 run in less than two minutes to take the lead back at 40-38.

Pergola showed her full arsenal in this stretch with seven points, two on a nifty hook shot and another of three pointers.

The Greyhounds would get the lead back at the free throw line to go up 41-40 with under two to play.

Burger though, showed why she may just be a force in Torrington athletics (softball standout as well) for a good long time when she broke the press and went coast to coast for a basket and a 42-41 lead.

Naugy took the lead back on a bucket by Felicia Salvati with 1;41 to play.

The Greyhounds led 43-42 at that point but Pergola had one more moment of magic in her when, off of terrific ball movement by the Raiders was open for a long ball that found the bottom of the net and sent the home ground into a frenzy.

Macary would answer though with a jumper from the right side of the free throw line to knot things at 45.

The home team had one final chance in regulation and Burger nearly banked in a runner from the right corner as time ran out.

Naugatuck would outscore the Raiders by a 10-1 margin in the extra frame but sometimes a loss is a win, especially if it teaches a team something and shows something about their character, something Burger expanded on.       

“We come here to win,” Burger said, “None of us wants to lose.”

For coach Fritch, who hasn’t had a lot to smile about over the past few years, this group is bringing that smile back while he sets the goals higher for a team he knows will be something special. Might not be today or even this year but soon.

“They are so much fun to be with,” Fritch said. “The only thing that I want to change about them is the culture of practice. We have to understand that this (game execution) has to happen in practice. When they do that, look out.”

Torrington is home next Monday (versus Kennedy at 6) and Tuesday (Crosby at 7).

Bring the noise Raider fans. This is going to be something to watch grow.   

Naugatuck 55, Torrington 46

At Torrington

Naugatuck   10 17 9 9 10 55

Torrington   11 13 6 15 1 46

Naugatuck (55): Brielle Behuniak 2-1-5, Kaylee Jackson 1-4-6, Sara Macary 7-11-25, Alissa McNeil 1-1-3, Lauryn Ramalho 0-4-4, Hailey Russell 2-1-5, Felicia Salvati 2-4-8. Totals: 15-25-55

Torrington (46): Suzie Navin 1-0-2, Olivia Smith 1-0-2, Madison McLaughlin 2-0-4, Rachel Brewer-Karimi 1-0-2, Marissa Burger 4-1-9, Julianna Latina 1-0-2, Brianna Murelli 2-0-5, Leah Pergola 7-3-20. Totals: 19-4-46

3-pointers: (T) Pergola 3, Murelli

Records: Naugatuck 4-1, Torrington 1-3

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here