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Two clutch free throws by Brian Ballesteros give THS a last second 63-62 win over Derby.

POSTED February 19, 2020
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


TORRINGTON: Torrington senior Brian Ballesteros had just one thing on his mind as he stepped to the free throw line for a pair of freebies with just one second left on the clock and his team down 62-61 to Derby.

“I said to myself that I have to make the first one,” Ballesteros said.

He did make the first one and then quickly the second one and after a desperation heave from half court by the visiting Raiders went bounced off the back board, the Torrington Raiders had a crucial win on their quest for a state tournament spot.

At 7-11, Torrington has two games to play. Friday night at Kennedy (7-12) in a game that both teams need to get a spot in the post season and then home next Tuesday for Senior Night against unbeaten (18-0) Sacred Heart.

Friday night will be Senior Night at the Jack Taglia Gymnasium for the Eagles, making the Raiders task that much more challenging.

So, a team that has been solid at home at 6-3, needs a road win in the worst way in three nights after going 1-8 in their previous road chances.

Not an impossible task by any means, if the Raiders can figure out how to bottle the energy they get from the home crowd ad take it on the road with them one time.

That and the kind of scoring they got from another senior, Justin Mattiello who scored a game high 23-points, 15 of them in the first half.

Both teams came in knowing it was getting late in their seasons and needed to play well and in the first quarter, a pattern of runs by both teams took hold and remained in place all night.

The home team would go on a 9-0 run to turn an early 5-3 deficit into a 12-5 lead, led by seven points from Mattiello who connected on one of his four three pointers in the offensive burst.

Derby closed the quarter on a 7-4 run to trail by a 16-12 score after one.

Torrington came out on fire in the second with center Ben Smith, who has been playing very well inside, muscling his way for a bucket and one which was followed by a second Mattiello long ball for the game’s biggest spread at 22-14.

22-14 turned into a 27-24 lead by Derby in a big hurry, led by a pair of three pointers from Taeshaun Sanchez who had six in the game.

Mattiello balanced things out with a pair of free throws and another trey just before the half as the home went to the locker room up one at 30-29.

This game had the feel of one that would rock back and forth all game and true to form, it did again when Derby scored the third quarters first six points to go up 35-30.

Torrington junior Joe White stopped the bleeding with a pair of free throws that ignited a 12-2 spurt, giving Torrington the lead again at 42-37.

Sanchez though, was deadly from deep and refused to let his team fade with another three pointer to keep his team close.

A last second three pointer Shymar Robinson gave the visitors a one-point lead entering the final frame at 47-46.

In a game of runs, you knew this one had a couple more left and sure enough, Torrington pushed out to a 56-49 lead behind a basket and one from White, two baskets by Ballesteros and a bucket and one from Smith.

Who would answer for Derby?

Why Sanchez of course who connected on his fifth long ball.

A Ballesteros free throw (Torrington was nearly perfect at the line, connecting on 13 of 14) and a Zerion Montgomery bucket for Derby made it 57-54 Torrington with under two to play.

Davont Addison who knot things at 57 before Jacob Groebl connected for a two-point THS lead.

Sanchez was not done yet and drilled his final three (20 points) for a 60-59 lead for the visitors with 1:15 to go.

Smith (14 points), playing with four fouls, connected to put Torrington back up 61-60 and it looked like the last team with the ball would win this one.

Zerion Montgomery gave the visitors their last lead at 62-61 and after Derby missed the front end of a one and one opportunity, Torrington had another shot with :11 seconds to go.

The inbound came from mid court but no open shot presented itself for THS until Ballesteros got the ball with six second to go, drove from the top of the key down towards the hoop where he drew the contact and the foul was called with just :01 left on the clock.

Free throws had not always been so kind for Torrington this year but with everything on the line, the senior who scored nine in the game, calmly drained both for a win that they hope will propel them to a road win in three days.      

Torrington 63, Derby 62

At Torrington

Derby 12 17 18 15 62

Torrington 16 14 16 17 63

Derby (62): Rayon Barnes 2-0-4, Shymar Robinson 5-0-12, Zerion Montgomery 5-2-12, Davont Addison 3-0-8, Taeshaun Sanchez 7-0-20, Ken Little 3-0-6, Total: 25-2-62

Torrington (63): Charlie Mathieu 3-1-7, Justin Mattiello 8-3-23, Joe White 1-3-5, Ben Smith 5-3-14, Jake Groebl 2-0-5, Brian Ballesteros 3-3-9. Totals: 22-13-63

Three-pointers: Derby (10), Robinson 2, Addison 2, Sanchez 6. Torrington (6) Mattiello 4, Smith, Groebl

Records: Derby 6-12, Torrington 7-11

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