Getting it done with just six players. Raiders get the W over Woodland, 63-48.
TORRINGTON: Going into their game on Friday night against visiting Woodland, things did not exactly look bright for the Torrington boys’ basketball team as just seven players warmed up before an important Naugatuck Valley League game against the Hawks
Important because as they started the second half of their schedule at 3-7, they were looking to break a three-game losing streak that had put their season on the brink.
In each of those losses, the Raiders fell apart late in the games after playing well for three quarters.
How would they respond with just seven healthy bodies?
Well, just fine and pretty gutsy in a 63-48 win over the Hawks in a game in which they only used six of those seven players but got key contributions from each of them at key times while getting a lift from their head coach in game planning.
Eric Gamari coached a terrific game with not a lot of room for error and the conditioning his players go through came through as his six players were not gassed as much as their counterparts from the valley appeared to be in the fourth quarter.
Heck, two Hawks even fouled out, a luxury the Raiders could nary afford unless assistant coach Gary Robinson had some eligibility left.
“It’s always hard when you’re short-handed,” Gamari explained. “Sometimes when you’re playing that way, guys have to focus on their assignments more.”
With TJ Calabrese (broken ankle) the latest starter to hit the bench, joining Charlie Mathieu and Matt Rylander as spectators, Gamari needed to find a way to get both production on offense and defense while resting his team all at the same time.
Enter the triangle offense that features the three guards methodically working their way around screens above the top of the circle while the wings can catch a moment or two of much needed oxygen.
In the first quarter, the visitors worked their way out to an 8-6 lead before a Brian Mattiello (tied for team high with 14 points) three ball started a 14-2 run that pushed the home team lead out to 20-10 after one.
A hot start was on the mind of one of the three seniors on the court tonight who were still smarting from their tough loss to the Indians two nights ago.
“We had that really bad game at Watertown the other night,” Mattiello said. “So, the seniors, me, Brian (Ballesteros) and Nick (Balducci) wanted to play better and get a home win. Everybody stepped up tonight.”
The lead ballooned to 15 at 28-13 after a Joe White (7 points) three pointer with just under three minutes to go in the half but was answered by an 11-4 run by the Hawks to end the half made it an eight-point game at 32-24.
Visions of meltdown may have been floating through the Raiders minds when Woodland closed to within four at 35-31 before two key baskets from Raider big man Ben Smith.
There was 5:31 left in the frame when Smith found himself open on the left side outside the three-point line so the junior let it fly and it found nothing but the bottom of the net.
On the Raiders next possession, Smith found himself in the same spot put this time faked the long ball and nailed a jumper from the left of the foul line.
Momentum killers for certain, both of those shots that for that moment, the visitors were kept at an arm’s length.
The lead was back to double digits when the quarter ended at 45-35 but the fourth quarter loomed large, especially after the last week and a half.
The Hawks, as if on que, scored the quarters first six points to close with four again at 45-41 but two key big baskets inside by Mohamed Traore (11) and one from Balducci (8) kept the past from repeating itself on this night.
Woodland tried to press with just over four minutes to go in the fourth and while it did lead to some turnovers, the Raiders took advantage of nearly every opportunity at the foul line in the quarter (8 of 10) to seal this one.
It was a gut check moment and the Raiders passed the test after the leaders of the team had a meeting of the mind earlier this week.
“After the Watertown game on Wednesday,” Gamari said. “I just asked to talk with my seniors. We just laid out what I saw, what was going on and what we needed to improve on.”
Ballesteros tied Mattiello with a team high 14-points while Smith finished with nine.
It was a terrific effort, considering the MASH unit (look that up kids if you don’t know the show) that was on the bench but also a testament to the conditioning these players have under Gamari and some quality game adjustments by the head coach.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Raiders next week as they travel to take on WCA on Tuesday before hosting NVL and Division II leading Naugatuck on Friday night.
For one night though, Torrington showed that they could get the “W” regardless of how many players were available to compete.
Torrington 63, Woodland 48
Woodland 10 14 11 13 48
Torrington 20 12 13 18 63
Woodland (48): Jason Palmieri 3-3-9, Nathan Bodnar 4-0-9, Nathaniel Smith 6-1-14, Trey Mastropieri 3-0-7, Joseph Giuliani 3-0-6, Brady Anderson 1-0-3. Totals: 20-4-48
Torrington (63): Nick Balducci 3-2-8, Justin Mattiello 3-6-14, Joe White 3-0-7, Ben Smith 3-2-9, Mohamed Traore 5-1-11, Brian Ballesteros 5-3-14. Totals: 22-14-63
3-Pointers: (W) Bodnar, Smith Mastropieri Anderson. (T) Mattiello 2, White, Smith, Ballesteros
Records: Woodland 5-6, Torrington 4-7