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Torrington girls fight Holy Cross to the end in close loss

POSTED February 01, 2012
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

TORRINGTON – Just as it did on December 13, the Torrington girls basketball team lost to Holy Cross, the sixth-ranked team in Connecticut, Tuesday night at the Connie Donahue Gymnasium.

However, despite their 67-62 defeat to the Crusaders, the Red Raiders put on display how far they’ve come since that first battle, in which they lost by 19.

Torrington led by five at halftime, and trailed by just one with 38 seconds left before Holy Cross’ Amy Stafford sealed the game with four consecutive free throws.

Caycee Williams, who struggled in the loss at Holy Cross, had maybe the best game of her high school career, scoring a team-high 23 points and finishing with a game-high 20 rebounds. Alyssa Otis added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Red Raiders.

In the end, though, the difference for Holy Cross was Brianna Bradford’s 32 points, including a lethal seven three-pointers.

“Overall, it was a great game,” Torrington head coach Mike Fritch said. “I thought we played really well and the kids did a great job. The story of the night was our 24 turnovers and that we gave up eight threes.”

Torrington, which fell to 14-3 overall and 14-2 in the NVL, played a great first half, jumping out to its biggest lead of the night at 23-16 on a runner from Mariah Cerruto with 2:16 left in the second. Following a rebound in the final seconds of the period, Otis went coast-to-coast for a lay-up and was fouled for a three-point play and a five point Torrington advantage heading to the locker room.

In the third, the Crusaders (16-1 overall, 15-0 NVL) forced the issue with their press, a scheme Torrington struggled with as it committed eight turnovers in the quarter. Stafford knocked down a three to pull Holy Cross within one, followed by a lay-up off a turnover from Angelica Ariola that gave it a 38-37 lead with 3:47 remaining.

Holy Cross, whose only prior lead was a short-lived one-point edge in the second, would never trail again.

“We talked in the locker room about being careful with the press,” Fritch said. “Our point guard Caroline Teti is only a sophomore and she made some mistakes, but you have to give her credit. She is fearless and never backed down against them.”

The Crusaders opened up an eight-point lead with 2:45 left in the fourth, but Torrington did not give in.

Cerruto knocked down a three to cut the lead to five, Otis hit two free throws, Williams converted on a three-point play and Torrington found itself down one with 38 seconds on the clock.

Last season at this gym, Sarah Royals hit a miraculous half-court shot at the buzzer to beat the Crusaders. That play was on the mind of one leader.

“I was thinking déjà vu right there,” joked Holy Cross head coach Frank Lombardo. “I probably will 30 years from now, too.”

Stafford, though, made sure Lombardo and the Crusaders would avoid another heart-breaking loss in Torrington. She knocked down four straight from the foul line to put this contest, another in the long line of intense Torrington-Holy Cross battles, to rest.

“I told Mike Fritch I wish 16 of our games are like this in the season,” Lombardo said. “We haven’t played a lot of close games and it was a great experience for our team, especially come tournament time.

“And we’ll probably see Torrington again in the NVL Tournament.”

Don’t bet against that.

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