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Raider boys show grit and determination in 68-58 loss to Waterbury Career.

POSTED December 23, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: Welcome back Tyreek Davis, the Torrington boys’ basketball team has missed you.

The sophomore forward played basketball in Torrington through eighth grade before moving to Pittsburgh for his freshman year in high school but returned to take the court this season and is part of what looks like a team, despite an 0-2 start, that might be pretty fun to watch in 2016/2017.

Davis and the Raiders fell to the newest addition to the Naugatuck Valley League, the Waterbury Career Academy Knights by a 68-58 final, a final that doesn’t indicate just how close and entertaining a contest a lively crowd inside the Connie Donahue Gymnasium got to witness in the Torrington home opener.

The energetic sophomore may have tallied just six points in the scorebook but was responsible for so many more as he showed off his ability to run the floor and find open teammates.

“He sees the floor so well,” head coach Eric Gamari said. “He has a really strong knowledge of the game, even before the game he’s asking questions about what to do in certain situations.”

The Raiders have played a pair of up-tempo city schools in their first two matchups, Crosby first on Tuesday in an 89-63 loss and facing another high-energy team that also pressed the entire game was a great test for the young Raiders.

True to form, WCA ran and pressed their way to a 10-2 lead before Gamari made some changes to his lineup, utilizing a depth chart that has plenty with a nine-man rotation.

Dontae Thomas hit the Raiders first three-pointer to t the offense working and after buckets by Jordan Henneberry (11) and Joel Villanueva (10) the home team was able to cut into the lead and trailed by just six at the break at 15-9 and their new-found confidence showed as the second quarter began with a bang for Torrington.

Villanueva, who can simply jump with anybody on the court, converted on and old fashioned three point-play which was followed a long three pointer by Hunter Murphy (team high 14) who displayed a smooth shooting touch and was key for his team on Thursday night.

Stephon Daily (13) scored off a fast break which began with a pair of Raiders diving for a loose ball, a great display of hustle, one that got the Raider faithful on their feet.

Murphy drained another long ball before being on the happy end of a great display of moving the ball which resulted in an open shot for the sharpshooter.

A 15-9 deficit turned into a 22-15 lead before the Knights responded with a 7-0 run of their own to tie things on a bucket by Jaden Battle (12) tied things at 22.

Torrington had shown something during that run, something I’m not sure we have seen in quite a while. Pure hustle, pure energy and determination by all nine who rotated in and out throughout the game.

“This is a feisty bunch,” Gamari said. “They want to win, they love basketball and they’ll get after it.”

WCA went into the half up 25-22 but a Ricky Rodriguez trey knotted things.

Sophomore Marquan Watson (game high 22) scored seven points in the frame, none louder than the baseline dunk he threw down to the delight of the traveling teams faithful.

That dunk and a drive by fellow sophomore Matt Torres pushed the visitors lead back up to 43-37 just before the end of the quarter.

In that third quarter, Torrington fell victim to the Knights pressure far too many times, resulting in turnovers and easy points.

Davis proved to be the best press breaker and it gave him a chance to hit open teammates with his crisp passes or kick outs for easy three ball looks.

Down five entering the fourth, the Raiders again showed heart and grit by staying within striking distance and when Murphy hit his third long ball with 5:42 left in the fourth, Torrington was back within one at 48-47.

Senior forward Jalen Edwards scored five points on a field goal and hit five of seven free throws in the fourth quarter. Watson, who converted on 13 free throws, hit five of six down the stretch.

Showing a fight that their head coach and fan base were thrilled was effective and one way or another, Torrington crawled back one more time to get within one at 59-58 but could get no closer as the Knights converted nine of eleven from the charity stripe down the stretch.

As the outcome became obvious, Gamari brought his starters out and even their reaction impressed.

They were visibly upset that they could not close the deal, another great trait that makes this a team that will entertain all year and should win their share of these types of games down the line.    

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