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Raiders battle back to beat St Joseph, 70-69 in tough DIII opener.

 Torrington: When the Torrington boys basketball team found themselves down by seven at the half in their first round Division III state tournament game against St Joseph, they were not a happy bunch.

Not a lot had gone right for the home team over the first eight minutes as they found themselves in an 18-9 hole thanks to some strong inside play by a fast, big, and physical Cadets team.

As they broke their huddle to start the third quarter, their battle cry was an emphatic, ‘vengeance’ as in, they needed to take back some of what they had lost over the first 16 minutes.

It worked as the Raiders came out firing behind two, three pointers by junior Will Parkhouse (25 points) and a drive by fellow junior Luca White to take a 39-38 lead on their way to a dramatic finish that saw the Cadets miss a chance with under a second to go in a 70-69 win.

Man, if that’s their first-round game, this might be a fun run for Torrington as they hit the road on Thursday to play the top seed in D III, SMSA at 6:30.

Having seen the Raiders play close games against city teams but come up just short in some cases this regular season easily helped the Raiders, as did playing touch out of conference games over their first 20 games.

That experience was needed on Monday night as this tea, looked to do what any team that plays at home does during the post-season by coming away with the “W”

That first 12 minutes were rough for the home team who trailed by as many as 11 at 30-19 following a long three by Marko Joksovic had the Cadet fans on their feet.

It could have gotten ugly at that point; the visitors had all the momentum and the home team found themselves on their heels.

To their credit though, Torrington kept their collective heads and worked the lead down, helped by a monster three from senior Vontae Meekins from the right side to make it an eight-point game at 34-26.

It was 38-31 at the break and all the momentum had shifted in Torrington’s favor.

Their body language was dramatically different as the second half started and after taking that one-point lead thanks to the 8-0 blast off to the third frame, it was a ball game.

From that point, this became a game of short spurts by both teams. Trading baskets.

St Joseph went up 46-42 midway through the third only to see the Raiders go ahead on basket by DJ Williams, one on a coast-to-coast bucket off a steal, the second on a ‘man on a mission’ move inside.

Williams efforts made it a 51-50 Raider lead, but we were far from over. Although the best the Cadets could do the rest of the way was tie things at 51 with 2:09 to play in the third quarter.

Meekins, who was a vocal leader all game long, hit a shot to make it 53-51 as the home team took the floor with eight minutes to go, up two at 55-53.

Junior Luca White scored all 12 of his points in the second half, including an old fashioned three-point play to give Torrington their biggest lead of the game at 64-57 with just over four to play.

The Cadets, especially TJ Wright (game high 27 points), scored 12 of his teams 18 points in the final frame to keep them in the game.

His basket with 45.9 seconds to play made it 70-69, an eternity in this kind of game.

Back to back possessions for Torrington ended in offensive fouls calls against Parkhouse and White, setting up the Cadets with a chance for a game winning last shot.

21.9 seconds were on the clock as the Cadets made their way up the floor, looking for that last shot and a chance to play on Thursday night.

The Raiders though, stifled any good looks St Joseph was looking for and their shot with .09 left on the clock was off, hitting the top of the backboard for a turnover.

All Torrington had to do was get the ball inbounds and it was over and after having to call a timeout to prevent a turnover, they did just that.

Moving on never felt so good.

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