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Raider girls take care of Kennedy, 61-49.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
TORRINGTON-Judging by the exasperated expressions on Torrington High School girls basketball coach Mike Fritch’s face during the second half of his team’s 61-49 victory over Kennedy Friday night at the Cornelius E. Donahue Gymnasium one would have expected a bit of a post-game tirade.
After all, the Raiders came somewhat close to blowing a 20-point lead against the Eagles after playing almost flawless basketball in the first half. Torrington’s sloppy play and some hot shooting by the visitors gave Fritch fits along the Raider sideline, as Kennedy clawed as close as nine points, 41-32, when Lillian Martinez canned a pair of free throws with 2:30 left in the third period. Kennedy was still hanging around and trailed 52-42 with five minutes left in the game before the Raiders, behind the steadying influence of junior Caroline Teti (five points and a crucial assist to senior center Megan Calabrese) during the final three minutes, put the W in the books.
It was the 14th win against four losses for Torrington and kept THS atop the Copper Division of the Naugatuck Valley League. Kennedy, which beat the Raiders by five points in Waterbury the first time the teams met this season, dropped to 11-5.
“We just didn’t have the focus in the second half,” said Fritch. “I have to stress to the girls that this is late in the year, we have only a few games left in the regular season, and we need to go four full quarters.” He added a caveat that tempered his distaste with his team’s second half play. “I am still very pleased with the girls this season. They have overachieved and gone beyond what I thought they would do at the beginning of the year.”
Torrington’s players knew they wrote a tale of two halves Friday night.
“I think we had that big lead and we let it affect us,” said Teti, who had 12 points. “They changed up their defenses a little on us between zone and man-to-man and that threw us off a bit.”
Added senior guard Nicole Kozlak, who had 16 points, including four three-pointers,” We definitely came out in the second half sluggish because the first half we played so well and got them in a big hole. But it was still a good game for us because they beat us at their place. We’re coming together as a team.”
Torrington isn’t exactly a big club and they aren’t overly fast. But when they move the ball around on offense like they did in the first half and all five players hit the boards they can play with anybody n the NVL. The Raiders own a pair of victories each over Holy Cross and Naugatuck and handed Watertown its only loss of the season.
Kennedy actually raced out to a 6-1 lead before Torrington’s patient offense began to click. Each player on the floor touches the ball when things are running smoothly, and the Raiders have a nice inside-outside game that features senior center Meghan Calabrese and the perimeter shooting of Kozlak, Teti and Mika Howard, the latter three combining for seven three-pointers.
It was Kozlak who was red hot from beyond the three-point stripe in the first half, making three treys. Torrington went on a 13-0 run that increased a two-point lead at the beginning of the second period to a 26-11 advantage with 4:27 left in the half.. Calabrese (11 rebounds) was doing damage inside with nine points. When Kozlak drove for a bucket just before the buzzer, the home team had an 18-point lead, 36-18.
Kozlak scored to start the third period to give her club its largest lead, 38-18, and it looked like the game was going to turn into a laugher. But the Eagles had other ideas and went on a 14-3 run that got them to within nine. The Raiders righted the ship and built their lead back up to 15, 50-35, at the start of the fourth period when Mia Barbieri laid the ball in the hoop.
Kennedy did get its deficit down to 10 when Jennifer Marrone canned a long-distance three-pointer with five minutes left. But Teti calmed things down and helped pull her teammates through the final few minutes of the contest.
Calabrese had 13 points and Teti 12 for the Raiders, who forced 20 Kennedy turnovers, while Shonia Punter led Kennedy with 17 and Marrone chipped in with 14.
Torrington gets back to work at Crosby Tuesday night.
Torrington 61, Kennedy 49
Kennedy (11-5): Lillian Martinez 1 2 4, Shonia Punter 5 6 17, Jennifer Marrone 5 0 14, D.J. Alberto 3 0 7, Lydia Whitney 2 0 4, Sarah Norwood 1 0 3. Totals: 17 9 49.
Nicole Kozlak 6 0 16, Paige Middleton 0 3 3, Caroline Teti 4 2 12, Mika Howard 3 1 8, Olivia Morrison 2 3 7, Megan Calabrese 5 3 13, Mia Barbieri 1 0 2. Totals: 21 12 61.
Kennedy 10 8 17 14 49
Torrington 13 23 12 13 61
3-point goals: K (6)-Marrone (4), Punter, Alberto. T (7)-Kozlak (4), Teti (2), Howard.