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Raiders rip Crusaders

POSTED December 18, 2018
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                TORRINGTON – What a difference a couple of days makes. From fourth gear to first gear. From missing something to missing nothing. From broke to break up the Raiders.

                Okay, Tuesday night’s 90-59 demolition of Holy Cross at the Connie Donahue Gymnasium was only the second game of the season and that alone demands you temper the results a bit. But the Raiders unveiled plenty of signs that there is much promise in this season.

                Coming off a 65-55 loss to Newtown in the opener that was a bit deflating, Torrington did a quick tune-up job and quickly dismissed any lingering bad feelings with a clinical performance.  The Raiders ran, shared the ball and found the bottom of the net. A lot.

                “Newtown was good wake-up call for us,” said Torrington coach Eric Gamari. “We were lethargic and had some guys hurt. Tonight was better. Tonight we had the whole arsenal. Dontae (Thomas) and Joel (Villenueva) were awesome and Tyreek (Davis) got into the flow.”

                Indeed.  Torrington threw a whole lot at the Crusaders and they weren’t prepared for it.  Villenueva pumped in 25 points, 22 coming in a scintillating second half.  Davis was right behind with 24 points and Thomas and Dixon tossed in 14 points apiece.

                The Raiders banged in nine 3-pointers and were a sharp 19-of-23 from the foul line. If was offense by committee.

                “We’re a tough guard we when execute,” added Gamari.

                “Look, Torrington does a great job on offense,” complimented Holy Cross coach Ryan Olsen. “We are very young and I warned the kids what it would be like in Torrington. You’re going to get screened and they are going to go under the screen. If not they will hit threes and If you don’t box out, you will get killed on the boards. And it all came true.”

                The Raiders took control early and never let go. With the score tied 13-13, Thomas and Davis hit 3-pointers to key a run of 12 unanswered points for a 25-13 lead. Holy Cross never recovered.

                Davis added a capper at the end of the first half when he converted a steal into a crowd-pleasing slam dunk to end with three seconds left for a 41-30 lead. Then the Raiders went on a blitz.

                Another 14-2-point run in the first four minutes of the third quarter upped the lead to 55-32 and turned a normally pretty stiff rivalry into a Torrington night.

                “Normally it’s the other way around,’ said Gamari.

                Villenueva had nine points in the period including a 3-pointer and a 3-point play. He would add another 10 in the fourth quarter.

                “I just keep the same energy and just keep pushing it,” said Villenueva.

                The entire Raider squad pushed it. Back-door cuts, pushing the ball, solid from the floor.  One night does not make a season but there was plenty to feel good about.

                “We have multiple players who can go off any night,” said Villenueva. “It is hard for teams to match up with us. We were cookin’. We had a great two days of practice and we came out with energy. There’s nothing like it.”

                The Crusaders would like a dose of that energy. For all their youth, Olsen was not pleased with what he saw.

                “We got zero effort,” said Olsen. “I don’t think Torrington is 35 points better than us. But tonight was a perfect storm. Hats off to them.”

                Akili Evans was a bright spot for the Crusaders with 21 points.

                The Raiders will find out a lot more about themselves Thursday night when a very good Naugatuck team comes to town. That result won’t make a season either. But if the Raiders match this one, the Greyhounds are in for a mighty tussle.           

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