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2011 Year in Review. Raiders win, 59-58 over Holy Cross with no time left on Royals four-point play. Story of the Year candidate.

POSTED December 20, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Sarah Royals of the Torrington girls basketball team, lets fly on her game tying three pointer that banked in with no time remaining on the clock. Royals was fouled by Angelica Ariola and sank the free throw to give the Raiders a 59-58 win over Holy Cross. Both teams now sport 16-1 records.

TORRINGTON-“Go figure.”

Those two words uttered by Torrington girls basketball head coach Mike Fritch summed up what a stunned crowd had just witnessed.

After being outplayed by the visiting Holy Cross Crusaders in the previous two plus quarters, the Raiders girls figured out a way to beat the previously unbeaten team from Waterbury, albeit in an unusual and spectacular way.

Senior Sarah Royals, playing with four fouls much of the fourth quarter, took an inbounds pass with :04 second left in regulation; her team down 58-55.

Royals made her way to mid-court and launched a desperation three pointer that found the bottom of the net and to boot, she was fouled.

With no time left on the clock, the University of Albany bound Royals stepped to the foul line and calmly drained the free throw for the win.

The two teams, clearly the top two teams in the Naugatuck Valley League, now sit atop the Copper Division with 16-1 records.

For two teams fairly evenly matched, what else would we expect at this point.

The fact that the Raiders won this game was not as surprising as how.

After jumping out to a 20-12 lead after one quarter, the home team was outscored by a 34-21 margin over the next two and went into the fourth quarter down, 46-41.

Add to that some pretty hefty foul trouble; Taylor Christiano fouled out with three minutes left, Brittany Kacksowki had four late in the game, as did Royals who picked up her fourth with five minutes left in the final frame.

What was the difference last night for the Raiders? First, a balanced offense that didn’t rely solely on Royals.

Aly Otis, who had sprained her ankle on Sunday playing soccer, missed most of the previous nights game against Kennedy (a 52-43 Raiders win) and it hampered the team on both ends of the court.

Tuesday night, Otis was a player possessed on both ends of the court, scoring a game high 19 points while grabbing nine rebounds, eight of them on the offensive glass.

“I just had to forget about my ankle,” Otis said, “We never gave up everybody chipped in.”

The Crusaders did a pretty good job on Royals all night, limiting her to 14 points until the final four seconds; Torrington needed others to step up to replace that offense lost.

Junior Morgan Thulin played another huge game for Fritch and the Raiders, scoring seven points, all in the second quarter when Cross upped the defensive pressure on Royals.

“I just knew I had to step up and do something for my team,” Thulin said, “We wanted this so bad.”

The Crusaders come at you in a variety of ways with multiple weapons.

Briana Bradford (18 points) woke up in the second quarter and drained a couple of treys to bring her team back from a that early deficit.

If its wasn’t Bradford, it was Angelica Bradford who drove and slashed her way for 15 points.

When Bradford picked up her fourth fouls early in the third quarter, Brianna Ferraro got involved and made sure her team didn’t miss a beat by draining a pair of three pointers as her team went from down 34-32 when Bradford hit the bench, to up 46-41 with one quarter left to play.

In the teams first meeting, the Raiders could not hit a foul shot down the stretch, missing as many as they made for the game (15 of 30) and were terrible in the fourth quarter when the Crusaders cam back from down eight with six minutes left.

Tuesday night, the charity stripe was their friend in a big way. Torrington connected on 26 of 28 for the game, their best performance of the season in a huge spot.

In the final quarter, it was the visitors who had some trouble at the line, making just 8 of 15 which let the Raiders hang around.

Otis single handedly kept her team in the game with eight points in the fourth, her monster drive to the basket with :43 second left, cut the Cross lead to 56-55.

Ferraro hit one of two free throws, as did Danille Doresett, who missed the second shot but got her own rebound, put up a shot that missed and the ball went out of bounds off the Crusaders with :04 left.

Royals then started her drive to the win off the unbound pass with Ariola hot on her trail.

There are two schools of thought on this play. Some coaches want you to foul before the shoe gets off, others say leave the shooter alone.

Royals made her way to just beyond half court and let it fly with :02 showing on the clock.

It was hard to hear over the crowd reaction but a foul was called on Ariola, sending Royals to the line with a chance for the win or overtime.

In true step with how her team shot from the line all night, Royals drained the freebie and an improbable win was in the books.

With one win each against each other so far this season, count on these heavy weights to do battle again in the very near future.


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