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Torrington falls to Ansonia in OT, 67-64

POSTED January 21, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON - For three quarters on Thursday night in a rare 5:45 start, the Torrington boys basketball team looked as though they had regained the swagger it had lost after losing four of their last five games.

They had come out of halftime with a mind to attack the basket and it was working; the Raiders turned a tie game at the half into an seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter and were feeling it.

That good vibe though, would not last as the Ansonia Chargers turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter to force overtime, where they outlast the Raiders by a 67-64 score.

It has been a struggle for the Raiders at times this year as they have tried to find their own identity.

Are they a run and gun offense or do carefully run half-court sets work better for them?

In the first half against the Chargers, it was a little of both.

Bryan Failla, who scored 17 on the night, was being marked tight by Ansonia, who knew of his three-point prowess and kept the senior marksman from getting many good looks.

So Failla, to his credit, started going to the basket to make his mark.

On the run, Jalen Johnson made things happen with several tremendous assists, including a three-quarters long bounce pass to Conor Shugrue for a bucket late in the first quarter.

The Chargers (6-4) have a first year coach in Todd Manual and some terrific leapers around the basket, led by Reggie Finney, who also possesses a sweet jumper that he will take from anywhere.

Neither team could put much distance between them, and at the half, these two squads with similar records, went to the break knotted at 27.

It was unique to watch two of the best running backs in the Naugatuck Valley League go at it on the boards in this one.

Brenden Lytton of Torrington and Montrell Dobbs of Ansonia, both help their teams in a number of ways of the hardwood.

Lytton plays a half a foot bigger than he stands while using that fullback mentality to impose his will on the boards.

Dobbs is lightning quick up and down the court and will pick your pocket if you are not careful, something he did at critical times late in the overtime session.

In the third, the home team came out with a new found aggression that saw them take the action to the Chargers and to the hoop.

Martin Mitchell (game-high 23 points) scored eight in the frame and went to the glass every time he got the opportunity.

Johnson converted on a traditional three-point play while Failla scored off a tremendous pass from Tony Consolini.

After the dust settled in the third, Torrington was up seven as the fourth quarter got under way.

Manual called for the press as the fourth got under way and it paid immediate dividends as it forced turnovers by the Raiders that brought a fast 5-0 run off a Christian Abdul trey and a Finney offensive put back.

Failla and Johnson would score on consecutive possessions to bring the lead back up to six, but the press saw the Raiders get away from their great ball movement and led to one shot chances most of the quarter.

“They turned up the defensive intensity and we just didn’t respond,” head coach Eric Gamari said. “This was a game we should have won.”

Instead of staying within the team concept, too often Torrington players would try and do it all themselves.

Four consecutive opportunities amounted to no points for the home team while the visitors were getting all the way back to even at 50 with :33 seconds left in regulation.

Tarell Vargas, who finished with 14 points and a bucket of rebounds, scored off an offensive rebound to put his team up 52-50 with just :14 seconds left.

Failla made his way up court, was fouled on the way to the basket and made the two free throws to force the extra time.

Having a All-State running back on the floor all night is a huge help for the Chargers, who follow what the talented senior does on the court.

“Montrell brings a tenacity to the floor,” Manual said. “He is the vocal leader of the team and lets his action on the court lead the team.”

After two Failla free throws put the home team up for the last time, a 7-0 run, led by a Keshont Graham three-pointer, made it tough for Torrington to recover.

They would have a chance at the end when Mitchell let one fly from beyond mid-court, but the ball hit the rim and bounced away.

Getting that teamwork back and the ability to stay within themselves is going to be critical for the Raiders going forward as they make the turn towards the end of the regular season.

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