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Raiders keep getting better. Improve to 16-1 with easy win over Wolcott.

POSTED February 11, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Torrington standout Paige Middleton (12) and the Lady Raiders rolled to a 59-32 win over Wolcott to improve to 16-1 on the season on Tuesday night in Torrington.

TORRINGTON: It’s no longer a work in progress.

The Torrington girls’ basketball team has got their guard based offense down to a tee and that’s just not good news for the rest of the Naugatuck Valley League or Class L for that matter.

On Tuesday night, the Raiders dispensed Wolcott by a 59-32 score and at 16-1, they are poised to finish the regular season at 19-1 with two games left with Naugatuck and one with Watertown.

What the Raiders could really use and will probably not get until the NVL Tournament, is to be pushed.

Since their six point win at Watertown on January 20, their average margin of victory has been 28 points.

It has been well documented that this has certainly been a down year in the NVL and beyond.

At this point, Torrington is playing as much against themselves and head coach Mike Fritch as anybody who has taken the floor versus them of late.

While we look ahead to the hoped rematch with Holy Cross (the Raiders only loss) in the NVL finals in two weeks, perfecting what they started in early December is coming together.

The offense that was installed during the first couple of days of practice took some getting used to and for a good portion of the early going, it was inconsistent at best.

It’s based on movement and cuts to the basket and more movement and cuts to the basket.

At this point, it’s not only working with the five starters but a layer or two down from that on the Raiders bench.

“It’s a hard offense to learn,” senior Paige Middleton (nine points) said, “There were only a few girls who had ever actually run it before so collectively we learned it really fast. We have been running it really well and we’ve started to implement screens and back cuts to it.”

The leadership of Middleton has been huge for Fritch who is blessed with the quietest star he has ever had in sophomore Brie Pergola (game high 15 points) and a supporting cast of winning athletes who may not mark basketball down as their first sport but have integrated their winning ways in their own way.

Take softball standout Brittany Anderson who has helped make the Raiders softball team a force every year.

Anderson understands her role on the team and has seen how far her team has come since the start of the campaign.

“Honestly, when we looked at it at the beginning of the season,” Anderson said, “We knew that we were going to have to work hard and we deserve to be where we are because we have done that the entire season.”

For Fritch, it’s nice to see the offense take that flow down the bench.

“I said to Joe (Lefkowski),” Fritch said, “Even the younger kids, when are putting them in, are doing what they are supposed to.”

Right now, not much is going wrong.

“Our communication is better, our guard play is better, I mean exceptional and the kids are not playing a whole game.”

The guard position has been steadied by the consistent improvement of senior Taylor Howe (nine points) who has allowed Pergola to play off the ball most times up the court.

Up and down the lineup, we have seen improvement.

Mia Barbieri has become a scoring threat, Kendra Covington is showing leadership on the floor with the second unit while Caitlyn Cornish is starting to look as comfortable on the basketball court as she is when she’s leading the volleyball effort.

So at this point, Fritch sees his players starting to mold into something special and is truly impressed with where they have gotten to, considering where they started.

“I keep going back to day one,” Fritch said, “The basketball knowledge has vastly improved over the course of the season. The kids have just bought into everything.”

From a team that nobody knew what to expect to a team that may lose just once during the regular season. Not bad for a team that truly didn’t look like much that first practice.

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