NAUGATUCK — There are no Christmas gifts in the world of sports; if the Naugy boys want a win, they’re going to have to earn it the hard way.
The Hounds fell to 0-3 after a 59-50 loss to Holy Cross Tuesday night at home. Head coach Kevin Wesche has been looking for the silver lining in a rocky start to the season, and that lining could be found Tuesday in a 10-point scoring performance in the second half by varsity newcomer Matt Zahornasky, 12 points overall for Warren Buerkle, and an offensive explosion early in the second-half.
The first quarter was a rough one for the Hounds. Holy Cross netted 17 points before Naugy scored once, and even that icebreaker came with only a minute and a half to play in the quarter.
Crusader Ryan Kolb had a field day, scoring eight of his 18 points in that quarter.
The Hounds tightened up and doubled their scoring pace in the second, but were unable to emerge from the hole, as the Crusaders kept the pressure on. The score stood at 34-15 at the half.
“We dug ourselves an 18-point deficit in the first quarter,” Wesche said, “We were able to outscore them after that … I wouldn’t say [the first quarter] is where we lost the game, but if we’re able to execute for four straight quarters, we’d be able to come up with something.”
Wesche gave the Hounds either a good tongue-lashing or a profound pep talk in the locker room, because they came roaring back out onto the court with a vengeance, netting nine points to Holy Cross’s two in the first three minutes and forcing a timeout.
But Holy Cross answered right back, orchestrating a similar, 10-point drive, while allowing Naugy only one field goal.
“We didn’t do a great job weak-side rebounding,” Wesche said. “We allowed them to take second- and third-shot opportunities.”
The Hounds pushed and pushed over the last 10 minutes of the game, but it wasn’t enough to scrape together that elusive first win. They got within eight points with 30 seconds to go, only to see that lead slip by one, to the 59-50 final.
The Naugy boys’ biggest weakness right now, Wesche said, is their overall defensive play. Not only do they allow too many unchecked rebounds, but also they often fail to stop penetrating drives and can’t protect against outside shots—in Friday’s game against Crosby, they let 12 treys slip past.
“Our biggest strength?” Wesche asked with a chuckle, “Well that’s a darn good question right now. Still, our strength is our unselfishness, constantly making that extra pass—but a lot of times, we should be shooting. … We need to be more patient on offense, but I definitely see an improvement.”
Up next for the Hounds is Wilby after the holiday.
“[Wilby is] a team we could be competitive with,” Wesche said. “We’ve proven—like with Holy Cross—we can play with some of the better teams in the league. If we keep working hard like we have been in practice, good things are on the horizon.”