ANSONIA — It’s good to be a second-half team. The Naugatuck boys basketball team looks like it might be turning into one, as the Greyhounds have started the season 2-1.
Naugy opened the season last week with victories at Derby and Ansonia, utilizing strong efforts after halftime to pull away in each game. In the Greyhounds’ 70-50 win over Derby Dec. 18, they outscored the Red Raiders by 17 points in the second half. When Naugatuck earned a 47-39 victory over Ansonia two nights later, the ‘Hounds had a nine-point advantage after the break.
For Naugy coach Mike Wilson, it all comes down to conditioning.
“I think we were in great shape tonight,” Wilson said after the Greyhounds’ chippy win over Ansonia. “I’ve really been pushing these guys and they’ve been running, running, running. That’s been our emphasis. In the third quarter, I thought we were in a little bit better shape.”
Naugatuck took a 21-20 deficit into halftime against Ansonia after trailing for much of the first half. Naugy’s biggest deficit came at the end of the first period, when the Chargers opened up a 15-8 lead on a 9-0 run to finish the quarter.
The ‘Hounds briefly reclaimed the lead late in the first half on a layup by Ryne Griesenauer, and he later gave Naugy back the edge for good on an old-fashioned three-point play with 3.3 seconds left in the third quarter. Jason Bradley picked up one of his four assists on the night with that dish, which helped Naugatuck end the period on an 8-0 run to earn a 36-33 lead.
Another 6-0 spurt early in the fourth, powered by buckets from Maleek Brooks and Griesenauer and free throws by Bradley, lifted the Greyhounds to a 42-35 lead with 3:21 remaining.
Less than a minute later, all hell broke loose under the Ansonia basket when Griesenauer and Tajik Bagley tangled up for a loose ball. The Chargers’ Angel Falero became incensed on the play and threw a punch at Griesenauer, who did not retaliate. The officials tossed Falero and Griesenauer, and the game finished without further incident. Naugatuck made enough free throws in the closing minutes to ice the victory.
“We knew it was going to be a war coming down here,” Wilson said. “Both teams competed and played hard. I’m satisfied with the way we came out, but we have to improve big-time. We had chances to pull away, but we couldn’t do the little things at times.”
Naugatuck’s rebounding advantage helped the ‘Hounds create distance from Ansonia. Five Greyhounds snatched at least six rebounds, led by Bryan Coney’s 12 and Brooks’ nine, as Naugy owned a 49-31 lead on the glass.
Griesenauer led all scorers with 13 points after he scored 14 against Derby. Bradley added eight against the Chargers after his 19-point effort against the Red Raiders, and Dayvon Russell tacked on seven in Ansonia.
Naugatuck fell in its home opener to Kennedy, 64-38, Monday night. Coney had eight points for the Greyhounds. Naugatuck will host Wolcott on Friday at 7 p.m.
Wilson hopes the strong team efforts his Greyhounds have put forth during the first week of the season will continue.
“I’m happy with it,” Wilson said of the good start. “Our chemistry is great. Everyone is positive and busting their butts in practice. There are no egos, and that makes a world of difference. This group of guys is really together, and it’s awesome.”