Raiders on to the NVL Title game for the first time since 2009 thanks to 95-83 win over Crosby behind 35 from Tyreek Davis.
WATERBURY, WILBY HIGH SCHOOL: In the two team’s first meeting on January 2 in Torrington, the homestanding Raiders appeared to be the better team in most ways that mattered as they matched up against rival Crosby except in one.
The Bulldogs ball trap wrecked any chance Torrington had in an eventual 77-72 loss thanks to a pair of stretches where the Raiders lost their composure when pressured and Crosby turned it into two turnover fueled runs that were the difference that night.
Flash forward to Monday night in the semi-finals of the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament where the team’s faced off with a spot in the finals on the line.
This time, the Raiders kept their collective heads, despite the attempts by the Bulldogs to cause havoc and are now in the Naugatuck Valley League Finals for the first time since 2009.
Their reward will be a match up against Sacred Heart but, heck, at this point, who cares?
The Raiders rode a magical shooting night that saw them connect on 13-3-pointers, five each by Tyreek Davis (35) and CJ Root (15, all 3’s).
They rode four players in double figures with two Joel Villanueva (19 points, 10 boards) and Dontae Thomas (13 points, 10 boards) posting double double’s as Torrington threatened at times to run the Bulldogs out of the gym despite a heroic effort from Kerwin Prince.
Prince was unstoppable with 42 points and 15 rebounds, scoring 22 of his teams 38 first half points but Crosby got scoring from just four players, just one more in double figures thanks to 26 from Justin Davis.
It was the Raiders who used the balanced scoring and 13, 3-pointers as they shot the lights out in the first half, thanks in part to a masterful half from Davis who hit four three pointers in the second quarter when Torrington pushed a five point lead out to 14 at the half.
This was an impressive team win, head coach Eric Gamari had to go to his bench with just over two minutes left in the first quarter when center Kevin Dixon picked up his second foul.
Ben Smith and Nick Balducci came in with the score tied at 17 and contributed right away as Balducci nailed a three-pointer right before Smith scored on a put back inside.
The second quarter belonged to Davis who scored his teams first 12-points, but he had help from fellow senior Thomas who did a terrific job of reading the defense and staying away from the ball traps that haunted the team back in January.
Matt Rylander and Brian Ballesteros also pitched in with key minutes with Rylander converting on a coast to coast drive for two of his four points in the second while Ballesteros was key on the inbound passes through the trap all night.
Every time the Bulldogs made a run, like they did in the third when they went exclusively to Prince on nearly every possession (14 points in the quarter), Torrington had an answer.
In the third it was Root who stood out, four threes’ in the frame as the Raiders stretched their lead to 20 at 82-62 entering the fourth.
Now, everybody in the gym knew the Bulldogs were not going away that easy, a Nick Augelli team never quits and sure enough, Crosby clamped down the pressure on the ball and went on an 11-2 run to pull with 11 at 84-73.
Once again though, another Raider, this time Ballesteros stepped up and converted a huge basket off an offensive rebound which was followed by a Davis drive to push the lead back to 15,
Try as they may, the Bulldogs pressure was just not making enough of a dent in the big lead Torrington had built at the end of three. What was different this time?
“We were just better prepared today,” Gamari said. “We had a great practice yesterday and the kids were pretty motivated.”
So, it’s on to the NVL Finals against the top ranked Sacred Heart Hearts at 7 p.m. right back at a gym that had spelled doom for Torrington for many a season over the last ten.
Not this year, not with this team.
“It was a great team win,” Gamari said.
Naugatuck Valley League Semi-Finals
Torrington 95, Crosby 83
Crosby 20 18 24 21 83
Torrington 25 27 30 13 95
Crosby (83): Kerwin Prince 15-12-42, Justin Davis 10-1-26, Jordan Santos 2-0-6, William Spears 4-0-9, Totals: 31-13-83
Torrington (95): Tyreek Davis 14-2-35, Dontae Thomas 6-0-13, Joel Villanueva 8-2-19, CJ Root 5-0-15, Nick Balducci 1-0-3, Ben Smith 1-0-2, Matt Rylander 2-0-4, Kevin Dixon 1-0-2, Brian Ballesteros 1-0-2, Totals: 38-4-95
3-pointers: Crosby (8) Spears, Davis 5, Santos 2. Torrington (13) Davis 5, Root 5, Thomas, Villanueva, Balducci
Sacred Heart 80, WCA 55
Raiders versus Hearts in the NVL Finals on Wednesday night.