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The Raider boys basketball campaign comes to a close.

POSTED February 26, 2020
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


TORRINGTON: It wasn’t the season the Raiders had hoped for.

A year after reaching the finals of the NVL tournament and the semi-finals in the states, the Torrington boys basketball team faced a laundry list of obstacles from the get-go this year.

They had lost five terrific starters from a year ago, meaning it was going to be an entirely new group that needed to melt together which was going to be a challenge in itself.

A brutal schedule that saw the Raiders face Holy Cross (14-5), Farmington (15-5), Naugatuck (19-1) and Crosby (14-6) over the first quarter of the season and left them with a 1-4 record after five.

Then the injury bug made its way to the Raiders bench. C J Calabrese was lost for the season with a broken ankle, Nick Balducci missed time as did several others along the way to the flu bug and just about any other bad break a team could have.  

Not that head coach Eric Gamari is making any excuses for the final record but the bumps and bruises certainly didn’t help.

“It was a tough year,” Gamari said. “The injuries, the illnesses and the lack of continuity hurt us.”

Tuesday night on their Senior Night, the Raiders saluted three players. Nick Balducci, Brian Ballesteros and Justin Mattiello were honored for their efforts over the past seasons and against one of the top teams in the state in Sacred Heart, each left their mark.

Balducci led Torrington with 13 points while Mattiello added 11 and Ballesteros 10.

Coming into tonight’s game, the Raiders needed a win to make the state tournament and the schedule makers simply put the wrong team on the last line of the schedule in the Hearts who are too deep and too talented.

It was 25-8 after one and 44-20 at the half. Sacred Heart wraps their regular season with a spotless 20-0 mark and prepares for the second season which begins with the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament.

Ben Smith, who will be a senior next year, has improved inside all year and finished with 11 points, many inside where Hearts center Connor Tierney (6’ 11” and 6 points) roams.

Caleb Sampson led the visitors with 23 while Lorenzo Washington added 16 in a 76-56 final.

We saw some good things inside the Connie Donahue Gymnasium this year and here’s hoping things break (or perhaps don’t literally break) a little easier for the boys’ basketball team once the 2020/2021 campaign gets underway in December.

NOTES

-Special thanks to my partners at the scorer’s table all season on the boy’s side. Pat Richardson and Drake Waldron made for good company and great conversation with an eye on making sure we did our respective jobs and did them well.

Waldron, who ran the clock, not an easy job, is stepping away from the table next year and I want to thank him for his service.

Richardson, who kept the home book and even started tracking turnovers (THS had 20 mid-way through the fourth to the Hearts 9) this year, took great pride in doing the job right and was also a good friend throughout what has been a challenging year for his friend.

On the girl’s side, Mike Fritch Jr and Eric Mahar made it the place to be on game night with coach Fritch loving what he saw from the Patriots most days and being relentlessly optimistic about the New York Mets chance this year while coach Mahar just though he was crazy.

Each of them made it a terrific environment to be in, each and every night.

-Don’t know if anybody else heard but next basketball season Torrington High School will be bringing in a new scorers table, thanks to the good shopping and smart bargaining of AD Mike McKenna.

I’ve been told it’s about eight feet longer than the old one that has certainly put in the work over the decades.

It’s been fun using the Gatorade bottle to determine possessions since the light on the front went out earlier this year. The look on some referees faces who had not worked at THS before was sometimes comical but between keeping track on the scoreboard, in the book or with the purple plastic container, the job got done just fine.

I hear perhaps cup holders for my friend Peter Wallace and I, but the rumor of a microwave or hot plate may be just that. Hey, a reporter can dream.

-Congratulations also go out to the Torrington Cheer team, under the guidance of coach Marissa Viscariello who entertained us with energy and enthusiasm right down to the last second of action on the court.

-I also want to note the family support that is present each and every night when either team is playing.

For the boys, count on coach Gamari’s future stars, Maya and Owen to give a good showing each time their dad has a game.

On the girl’s side, coach Mike Fritch, his daughter Erica Platt and Barbara Beebe also had the makings on a team of youngsters behind them, waiting their turn.

Sports is family and it was on display all year, as it usually is.  

Sacred Heart 76, Torrington 56

At Torrington

Sacred Heart 25 19 16 16 76

Torrington 8 12 16 20 56

Sacred Heart (76): Lorenzo Washington 5-3-16, Connor Tierney 2-2-6, Trevahn Duncan 4-0-9, Caleb Sampson 7-6-23, Steve Alseph 4-0-8, Devon Ellison 1-4-6, Oghosasere Igbinewuare 2-0-4, Alex Gonzalez 1-0-2, Mekhi Petteway 1-0-2. Totals: 27-15-76

Torrington (56): Nick Balducci 5-0-13, Justin Mattiello 2-2-7, Joe White 5-0-11, Elian Pena 1-0-2, Ben Smith 5-1-11, Jacob Groebl 1-0-2, Brian Ballesteros 5-0-10. Totals: 23-3-56

Three Pointers: (SH) Washington 3, Duncan, Sampson 3. (T) Balducci 3, Mattiello

Records: Sacred Heart 20-0, Torrington 7-13

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