Upperclassmen lead Raiders to blowout win over Kennedy 98-60 on Senior Night.
TORRINGTON: On an emotional Senior Night at Torrington High School, the homestanding Raiders were locked in a tight game with visiting Kennedy after one quarter with the score knotted at 19.
And then it wasn’t.
The Raiders were not about to let this night get away and simply out ran, out hustled and would not let up on an Eagles team that looked for a moment like they wanted to run with Torrington but soon discovered they could not.
After that 19-19 first, Torrington were unkind hosts who outscored the visitors by a 79-41 margin in route to a 98-60 final to run their regular season record to 15-4 with one game remaining in what is turning out to be one special year.
On Senior Night it was only fitting that three upperclassmen led the way with Tyreek Davis (26), Joel Villanueva (24) and Dontae Thomas (20) all having stellar nights as the visitors simply couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Raiders.
“That’s all that pre-season running we do,” Villanueva joked. “We love to run.”
Villanueva and his teammates could be excused for their slow start, especially after the surprise the senior forward got when his mother made a surprise visit from Florida to join him during the Senior Night celebrations.
The tears flowed and the joy was apparent at the reunion and it may have taken a little while for the emotion of the pre-game to filter out.
“We just had to lose our nerves,” Villanueva said. “Our families are all here and we want to do our best, so we were a little nervous. After that first quarter, we knew what we had to do.”
In that first quarter, Kennedy hit four, three-pointers to keep things close but hit only one until late when the outcome had already been decided.
Senior Jay Turner led the Eagles with 16 points, but the visitors clearly could not keep pace with the torrid Raiders running game.
“We had seen this before,” Raiders head coach Eric Gamari said. “Kennedy’s a good team, like Ansonia or Derby and they keep pace for a while but then we notice them falling off.”
Villanueva scored on a drive to the basket to open the second quarter and followed it up with a three-pointer and the home team never trailed again, going on a 17-8 run to end the half up 43-29.
While the Eagles were somewhat deliberate on the offensive end of the court, Torrington sprinted.
When the Eagles tried to sprint, the Raiders ran harder and faster, leaving defenders behind on fast break after fast break.
On the defensive side of the ball, Gamari challenged one of his players to step up against Turner and it worked.
Nick Balducci bothered, harassed and annoyed the much larger Eagle senior with some tenacious defense, all designed to help the Torrington defense be ready for the likes of the Hearts down the line.
“We needed to work on how to stop players who run downhill towards the basket,” Gamari said. “Sacred Heart does that a lot so we needed to see if we could take a charge or two along the way.
Davis and Thomas combined to help the home team blow things open in the third quarter when the lead ballooned out over 20 late in the frame.
To add insult to injury, Torrington poured in 32 points in the final frame as their conditioning simply made it impossible for Kennedy to make any kind of run.
The Raiders are in good position now at 15-4 with just one remaining game against Sacred Heart on tap.
The sit in second place in the Naugatuck Valley League and can finish no worse than third as they prepare for the NVL Tournament a week from Saturday.
In the Division III action, they are in the fourth spot behind Wamogo (18-0), Prince Tech (17-2) and Farmington (15-3) as the regular season winds down.
Their confidence is high, their chemistry very good right now and they have shown they’re not afraid to take on any kind of team but love it when a team wants to run with them.
Conditioning folks, conditioning.
Torrington 98, Kennedy 60
Kennedy 19 10 15 16 60
Torrington 19 24 23 32 98
Kennedy (60): Kyle Brown 2-0-5, Jay Turner 4-6-16, Matt Torres 4-0-10, Jaquane Jones 5-2-12, Synciere Dozier 2-3-7, Hector Ginorio 0-1-1, Derek Yates 1-0-3, Kris Cora 1-0-2: Totals: 19-12-60
Torrington (98): Dontae Thomas 9-1-20, Joel Villanueva 7-6-24, Tyreek Davis 12-0-26, Matt Rylander 2-1-6, Nick Balducci 4-1-11, Ben Smith 1-0-2, Kevin Dixon 3-3-9: Totals: 38-12-98
3-pointers: (K): Brown, Turner 2, Torres 2, Yates (T) Thomas, Villanueva 4, Davis 2, Rylander, Balducci 2
Records: Kennedy 7-12, Torrington 15-4