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Defense sparks Torrington girls win, Mitchell and Failla lead the boys past the Hearts.

POSTED December 23, 2010
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

WATERBURY - Playing at Sacred Heart High School is never an easy thing for road teams to do.

Having two road teams come in and leave with impressive victories is even more rare, but that’s exactly what the Torrington boys and girls basketball teams did on Thursday.

Behind 18 points and a tenacious defense, the girls dominated the Hearts by a 47-21 score in the opener.

In the second game of the night, Martin Mitchell and Bryan Failla combined for 38 points as the boys came away with a satisfying 55-49 win.

“We are not a great road team,” a happy head coach Eric Gamari said. “To come down here and win to go into the Christmas break at 3-1 is a good thing.”

Torrington trailed by a 23-18 score at the half and struggled at times with their offense, which was missing Coner Shugrue for the night but found itself thanks to Faila in the third quarter.

The senior three-point expert was off the mark in the first half but came out smoking in the third quarter, connecting on a three the first time he touched the ball and again the next.

The second came with a bonus as Failla was fouled and completed the rarely seen four-point play that erased the five-point deficit and put his team up by a 25-23 score.

Torrington would only relinquish that lead again once and climbed on the broad shoulders of Mitchell, who had his jumper working all night.

When the Hearts, who lost their entire starting five to graduation a year ago, took their last lead at 38-37 off a 5-0 run, it was Faille (a three ball) and Mitchell (two free throws) who settled the ship again.

It was, however, two players who are still settling into what their roles are on this team that made critical plays down the stretch to seal the win.

Brenden Lytton (eight points) came up with a huge offensive put-back for a score with just over two minutes to go to keep it a two-score cushion.

After the Hearts answered, sophomore David Canny (four points) scored on a tough move under the basket that forced the Hearts to foul the remainder of the game.

Torrington connected on all seven free throw attempts down the stretch to come away with the win.

In the opener, the two teams came in without a loss between them but it became clear quickly that the Raiders were the superior team.

This 2010 team is quickly becoming a very cohesive unit that has strengths all over the court.

They have the rock star, Royals, who can take over a game at will with her speed and athletic ability.

But they also have added a toughness missing at times over the past two years they have played together.

Brittany Kackowski has become a shut down defender, not just a player that uses up her fouls every night.

On Thursday night, sophomore Dionne Parker, who had an inch or two on Kackowski, played point for a good length of time and the Raiders senior center stayed with her every step of the way.

During a key stretch in the second quarter when the Raiders started to pull away, Kackowski went on a 6-0 run. I don’t think I’ve ever written that while covering this team but is shows the improvement in her all-around game.

Junior Mariah Cerruto had her best all-around game at the point Thursday night, allowing Royals to roam free, where she is the most effective.

Taylor Christiano, who has also stepped her game up in her senior year, scored 10 points and her improvement was summed up in a two play stretch midway through the fourth quarter.

After grabbing an offensive rebound, Christiano felt herself falling to her knees but had the presence of mind to get the shot off and it went in.

After a steal by the Hearts a minute later, an easy fast break lead pass was anticipated by Christiano, who deflected it away not once but twice to prevent the basket.

Maybe both teams should play on the road together more often. It sure worked Thursday night in Waterbury.

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