TORRINGTON: A 17-point first quarter lead had dwindled down to a precious three-point margin in the Torrington girls’ basketball team’s home opener against rival Naugatuck.
Getting off to a fast start against a division rival was important for Mike Fritch and his Raiders who return a senior laden squad that has played together for as long as most of them can recall.
Letting that entire lead vanish would have been a bad omen for a team that is looking to make some noise in the Naugatuck Valley League this season.
The home team built that big lead on the strength of their man to man play against the Greyhounds that led to buckets from most parts of the court.
When the visitors, now coached by former Sacred Heart boys’ basketball coach Jon Carrol, switched to a zone defense after that explosive first frame, the well-oiled machine kind of ground to a halt.
That was until a key player who missed the entire season a year ago, Leah Pergola, scored her team’s last five points during a key three-minute stretch near the end of the fourth quarter.
Pergola and junior Haley Burger (15 points) led the Raiders offense, which also got 10 points from senior Amelia Boulli.
That first quarter play was something the Raiders would love to bottle and play like that each frame of each game.
Everything was working.
The precision passes from Pergola to teammates who were ready to convert. The aggressive offensive play of Burger and the long-distance bombs from Boulli helped Torrington race out to an 8-0 lead, causing Carrol to call time with 4:36 left in the frame.
It looked like game one might go the way of the blowout, but the visitors adjusted, abandoning their man to man for a zone defense and it worked at slowing the Raiders.
Slowly, the gap shrunk, down to a dozen at the half at 31-19. After three, it was just five at 41-36.
Aryn Bombery was a force for the ‘Hounds, leading all scorers with 22 points and helped bridge that gap over time.
Burger would hit a jumper to push the lead back to five at 43-38 with less than six minutes to play.
Naugatuck would score their last points on a Bombery layup with under three minutes to play before the Raiders slowed the pace and waited for something on the inside to open.
With 2:49 to go, after multiple rotations around the floor by the home team, Pergola got open underneath for the bucket and foul, which she converted.
The same, slowed down pave led to another chance for Pergola, who was fouled and converted both for the final Raider points of the night and sealed the win.
So, that’s pone in the books with another big test on the horizon in the form of Holy Cross, who will host the Raiders in Waterbury on Friday.
Two early season tests.
Consider part one a success.