Raiders, behind 19 from Brian Mattiello, get by Watertown by a 58-54 final.
TORRINGTON: Coming into his teams matchup with rival Watertown, Torrington senior Brian Mattiello knew the Raiders had to do a better job against the Indians than the teams first meeting, a 55-41 road loss.
“We played terribly that night,” Mattielllo said. “We knew we needed to play better on our home court and gain some revenge.”
Thanks to the senior guards play down the stretch, when he scored his teams last 11 points, Mattiello (game high 19 points) and the Raiders came away with an important 58-54 win.
Important because at this point in the campaign, there is little room for error if Torrington wants to make the State Tournament. At 5-10, they need to take three of the last five to guarantee a spot in the second season.
Considering what kind of season, it has been, with injuries decimating much of the original starting five we saw in December, making the post season would be a pretty significant achievement.
The starting five from tonight featured only two players who started early in the season, Mattiello and junior Ben Smith.
Brian Ballesteros, Charlie Mathieu and Elian Pena join the other two players in the lineup and for head coach Eric Gamari, it’s been like starting over three quarters of the way through the season.
“This is almost like pre-season,” Gamari said. “It’s a lineup that has to learn on the fly. We have had so many injuries.”
Since the last time the two teams played on January 22, the Raiders lost TJ Calabrese (broken foot versus Watertown) and Nick Balducci (hand injury) adding to the MASH unit on the Torrington bench that already included Matt Rylander (wrist).
Torrington had lost three straight, six of their last seven coming in so getting off that skid was important, as was beating a team ahead of them in the Naugatuck Valley League standings.
Friday night was a game of runs on a night that neither team shot particularly well.
In the first quarter, the visitors ran out to an 8-0 lead before the home team got their first points when Mathieu converted a rare four-point play after being fouled on a made three pointer.
Back to back baskets by Smith (10 points) tied things up before Torrington closed out a 13-4 run to end the first frame up 13-12.
In that opening frame, Watertown shot 4 of 13 while the Raiders connected on 5 of 14.
A game of runs continued in the second as Torrington pushed the lead up to 24-12 behind five points from Joe White, two baskets coming off steals.
Jacob Groebl came of the bench for Gamari and had five of his 15 points in the frame but the Indians caught fire after being down by 12, ending the half on a 19-5 run, including seven points over the final minute to go into the locker room up 31-29.
Torrington shot 3 for 11 in the frame, the visitors 7 of 19.
It stayed a tight game after three with the Indians up 41-40 starting the final frame and off the strength of back to back three pointers by Miron Jusufi (team high 15) and Cam Guerrera and two more baskets by Jusufi, the visitors had their biggest lead since the first quarter at 52-47 with under three minutes to play.
Enter Mr. Mattiello.
Off of some terrific ball movement by the Raiders, Mattiello hit the first of back to back three balls that put his team up for good, one at the 2:58 mark, the next :55 seconds later for a 53-52 lead.
After some great defense by the home team, the Indians missed an attempt to go up and on the ensuing rebound scramble, were called for a foul and then a technical, putting Mattiello on the line where he calmly hit a pair of free to stretch the lead to 55-52 with 1:33 left.
Another great defensive stand by Torrington led to Mattiello getting fouled and connecting on one of two attempts that made it a two-possession game with :48 left.
A Watertown layup cut the lead to 56-54 and when Ballesteros missed the front end of a one and one, the Indians had life with :14 seconds to go but Joe White picked up a key rebound and Mattiello two more free throws and a team in real need of a win had one.
With five games to play, the Raiders need three wins to keep on playing into March.
They host Ansonia (7-6) on Tuesday night before traveling to take on Wolcott (1-14) on Thursday night.
Torrington comes home on Tuesday, February 18 to host Derby (4-10) before their last regular season road game three nights later at Kennedy (7-8).
Taking three of those four would be a good idea with NVL front runner Sacred Heart (13-0) coming to THS on February 25 for Senior Night.
Torrington 58, Watertown 54
Watertown 12 19 10 13
Torrington 13 16 11 18 58
Watertown (54): Miron Jusufi 6-1-15, Sam Weidemeir 2-0-4, Brian McWhirt 5-2-13, Cam Guerrera 3-2-9, Danny Toroveci 3-3-9, Owen Munson 1-2-4. Totals: 20-10-54
Torrington (58): Charlie Mathieu 1-1-4, Justin Mattiello 5-5-19, Joe White 2-1-5, Elian Pena 1-1-3, Ben Smith 4-2-10, Jacob Groebl 5-4-15. Totals: 19-14-58
Records: Watertown 8-6, Torrington 5-10