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Torrington girls play near perfect half in 69-34 win over Sacred Heart. Royals leads way with 27 points.

POSTED February 04, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON-The final score looks the same as most the Torrington girls basketball team has posted most of this season

The Raiders beat up on Sacred Heart by a 69-34 score but in the first half, the Raiders played their best 16 minutes of the season.

The Hearts (13-4) never had a chance against an antsy team that had not played in what seemed like an eternity and needed to take out their weather frustrations on somebody.

Sorry about that Hearts; this was a team itching for a game and when they couldn’t find one Thursday night, they simply put all their weapons on display with lethal consequences.

“We played some pretty good basketball tonight,” head coach Mike Fritch understated, “We have not shot that well all season.”

It was 16-1 after the first four minutes and during that time, one key player was finding her zone.

Sarah Royals, who has led her team and the Naugatuck Valley League in scoring all season, has had spotty results from beyond the three point line for much of the season.

Teams play the Raiders in zone most night and hope the treys don’t rain down on them.

Thursday night, like so many leaky roofs around the area, the rain got in.

Royals hit for five three pointers in the first half on her way to a 23-point performance in the first two quarters.

Mind you, this was the not the Sarah Royals show; it was though, Royals at her best.

When the Albany University bound star gets her team into the mix, her points still come fast and furious at times but you just don’t notice as much.

Great players make those around them better and for that first half, Royals accomplished that goal to perfection.

The entire Raiders team had an edge to them from the start; maybe not playing for a while worked or maybe they are just peaking at the right times the regular season winds down.

The first quarter saw Royals crank out 15 points while teammate Aly Otis (14, hard earned points) was all over the defensive side of the court, creating turnover after turnover.

Otis has taken her game to a different level this season with a confidence that comes from being a senior.

One play at the end of the first quarter epitomized the change in Otis from a year ago when she fought for three consecutive offensive rebounds.

While she did not get the basket, keeping the ball alive led to a three-pointer by Mariah Cerruto.

Cerruto, who played perhaps her best game of the year at the point, was clearly in charge of the offensive when it mattered.

For the Raiders to be effective against stronger teams (anybody?), the ball needs to be in Cerruto’s hands most trips up the court.

In the Raiders only loss this year, a 50-44 loss to Holy Cross, the Crusaders made Royals handle the ball more than Torrington would like.

While Royals can create with the best of them, her strength is in the open floor were she has an uncanny ability to find teammates with thread-the-needle kind of passes.

Taylor Christiano, who came off the bench on Thursday night, continued to do what she has done all year for the Raiders; block shots while dominating the boards.

Christiano was active once in the game, asking for the ball underneath on a regular basis.

Late in the second quarter, another of the Raiders weapons found her stroke from long distance.

Nicole Kozlak, who has one of the smoothest shots on the team from beyond the arch, drained a trey to put her team up by a 38-9 score.

Add in a normal dose of Brittany Kackowski muscle underneath and the Raiders could not have played ant better than they did for those 16 minutes.

It’s off to Watertown, tonight for a match-up with the Indians before a big week lurks next week in Torrington.

The Raiders play three times (okay who am I kidding, it has to snow) next week.

Monday, Kennedy will be in town followed by the biggest rematch of the year when the Crusaders invade THS the following night.

On Friday, Torrington will get their only regular season look at Woodland as the regular season winds down.

If this team can play at the high level it established in that first half, watch out. It could be a special season.

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