Raiders hold off Greyounds, 47-46 to improve to 2-1.
TORRINGTON: In their three games so far this campaign, the Torrington boys have experienced a multitude of game types.
A slowed down and off game, a 65-55 loss to Newtown in game one, was followed by a rapid fire 90-59 demolition of Holy Cross in their home opener on Tuesday night.
Tonight, against another rival, Naugatuck, they won a gritty, slow paced affair that saw them start the game with just five points in the opening quarter.
“It’s still pre-season for us,’ head coach Eric Gamari explained. “I told the players that the regular season really starts after they come back from their Christmas break. Tonight, was a grind but we got the win.”
It was the visiting Greyhounds intention from the start to not get into a track meet with the Raiders, the way the Crusaders had on Tuesday night and paid dearly for it.
That plus a bone chillingly cold shooting opening quarter (2-11) put the home team back on their heals for a bit, down 11-5 at the break.
Naugatuck freshman, Avery Hinnant, will be a problem for teams for the next four years, what with his 6’-7” and still growing stature and in the opening first eight minutes, he was making life tough for the Raiders to do anything inside.
Torrington did not crack the scoreboard until there was 3:41 left in the opening quarter when Tyreek Davis (10 points) connected on one of two free throws.
The Greyhounds were not exactly lighting things up themselves at that point either and led 2-1. No, this was not a soccer game, you read that score right.
Jean Lukau, who was one of the top scorers in the Naugatuck Valley League a year ago, did not start the game but went on a 7-0 run to put the visitors up 11-3 late in the quarter.
Kevin Dixon (game high 14) had both Raider buckets as the first eight minutes game to an end.
Something had to change at this point, someone had to bring energy and as the second quarter began, junior Nick Balducci proved the spark with back to back three-pointers, one from the left corner, the next from the top of the key to help the home team go on a 13-3 run to take an 18-14 lead.
Off a time out though, Naugatuck went on a 6-0 run on buckets by Keywan Edwards-Garris, Hinnant and Lukau to go up 20-18.
With the energy level at an entirely different level than the first quarter at this point, a key player for Torrington stepped up to make a play, actually two plays.
Senior Dontae Thomas may have scored just one point in the game but came up with a steal with just over a minute left in the half.
Thomas then dribbled through traffic before finding a wide-open Joel Villanueva for a three ball that put the home team up 21-20.
On their next possession, Thomas made another terrific pass, this time to Adam Vanotti who drilled a long three himself.
Torrington went to the locker room up 24-22 in what was shaping up to be a down to the wire affair.
In the third quarter, Dixon, who has become a force on the boards so far this year, scored six points as Torrington pushed out to their biggest lead of the game at 35-29 with 3:23 left in the third.
Naugatuck would continue to push though and ended the quarter on a 7-2 run and trailed by just one at 37-36 with eight minutes to play in regulation.
Balducci came up big again when his team needed it with another dagger three-ball that kept the lead at four, 40-36.
The visitors would cut the lead to three several times in the fourth, but the Raiders got a key bucket from Dixon with :37 seconds to go to put them up 46-41.
A traditional three-point play by senior Gwayne Fisher got Naugatuck with two at 46-44 with :13 seconds remaining.
Torrington got the ball in to Thomas, who was fouled with :11 seconds to go and converted one of two free throws for a 47-44 lead.
The Greyhounds had one more chance to send this one to overtime but a three ball from Lukau was off line and even though Hinnant got the rebound and put back in the lane, it was not enough.
Torrington had survived one of those games. One of those game you need to figure out how to get it done when not everything is working, and they did.
It’s a quick turn around for the Raiders as they will play their third game in four days Friday night at Seymour (0-3) before the break.
They return to the Connie Donahue Gymnasium for a key NVL matchup against Crosby on Wednesday, January 2.