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THS boys looking for consistency. Story by John Torsiello.

POSTED January 23, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Torrington High School boys basketball coach Eric Gamari was taking his team through its paces during a recent practice at the Cornelius E. Donahue Gymnasium on the THS campus on Monday.

Gamari wasn’t pleased. He wanted more from his players; more hustle, more quickness, more focus, more attention to detail. “We may be going home early today,” he said to a bystander.

Gamari expects a lot from this Raiders team, which began the season with three straight wins after a nine-win season a year ago, but then lost three of its next six games to sit at 6-3 as the week began. Included in that victory total was an impressive win over Holy Cross on the Crusaders’ home court, known as “the Pit,” by friend and foe alike. It’s not an easy place to play, and especially win, at and the triumph showed that this could be a very competitive Torrington squad.

“We want to win at least 12 games and get to the state tournament and Naugatuck Valley League tournament,” said senior forward and co-captain Spencer Mourges, who has been coming off the bench to average four points and three rebounds a game. “We came into the season with a chip on our shoulders because we didn’t think many people thought we could compete with the best teams in the league and we feel we can. The one thing we need to do better is to communicate on the floor, on both offense and defense.”

The Raiders began the campaign with wins over St. Paul Catholic, Seymour, and Holy Cross before getting beaten by Crosby in the Bulldogs’ gym by 34 points. Then followed wins over Wolcott and Derby before a tough overtime loss to Kennedy and a defeat at the hands of Watertown. Torrington beat Ansonia by three points last Friday.

“The Kennedy loss was very disappointing,” said Mourges. “We were up seven points in the fourth quarter, started missing free throws and lost in overtime. We let that one get away.”

Gamari said poor shooting, particularly on the free throw line, has hurt his team during the last few games.

“We shot 28 percent in one loss and 32 percent in another and before that we were hitting 27 to 30 shots a game,” said the mentor, now in his fifth year at the helm of the Raiders. “Our foul shooting was horrible. We were 7-of-25 against Watertown and 14-of-29 against Ansonia and that is just a matter of being somewhat young, losing focus and getting distracted when shots start missing.”

Gamari still feels good about his team, despite his sour attitude during Monday’s practice.

“We have kids who have never expected to win and now they are adjusting to the expectations on them to win. We are a team that should get better and better as the season goes on. We can play with the best teams in the league. Sacred Heart is at another level and Crosby is very good but who knows. We just have to get used to working our butts off in practice to make sure we are ready for the games.”

Torrington starts three seniors, guard John McCarthy who is averaging 20 points a game after notching 10 a contest a year ago, center/forward Desmond Langs, who averages just under eight rebounds a game, forward Mitch Zagrognik, who is scoring eight points a game. Other starters include sophomore guard Zak Mancini, who is averaging around eight points a game, and sophomore guard Connor Finn. Other key players have been freshman Dominic Sabia, senior Victor Diaz and Mourges.

Torrington plays what Gamari terms an “opportunistic” offense and presses on defense when the situation calls for it. The Raiders like to run and get up as many shots as they can.

“I thought the St. Paul win (84-64) was a great way to start the season and beating Holy Cross at their place showed that we can be a good team. I think realistically we are hoping to be a fifth seed in the NVL tournament. We can surprise a few teams if things fall our way.”

McCarthy, the team’s other captain, has blossomed into one of the better players in the NVL in his senior season. He wants to conclude his high school career on a high note and perhaps go on to play in college.

“We want to go to states again and make it to the NVL tournament. I think our poor shooting the last few games has been mental. It got in our heads but we are a much better shooting team than we have shown. We have the people to be a fast paced team that can put points on the board.”

The Raiders were scheduled to play at Naugatuck Tuesday (weather permitting) and have a huge test against Sacred Heart Thursday at home. Those two games will tell a lot about what this Torrington team is made of and just how good it can be this season.

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