NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team stepped onto the court Tuesday looking for some answers. The Greyhounds were in the midst of a four-game losing streak with a struggling offense averaging just 29.7 points per game during the skid.
An improved Crosby squad had already disposed of Naugatuck earlier in the season by a wide 56-38 margin, but the Greyhounds’ answers came in the form of a deliberate defense that created 22 turnovers on 17 steals and Naugy found its way back into the win column with a 37-29 victory.
“This was a much-needed win,” Naugatuck coach Jodie Ruccio said. “We gave ourselves a fighting chance by turning the ball over just eight times.”
Ninoshka Figueroa grabbed the loose ball on the tipoff and buried a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs on top, but Crosby went the next 4 minutes without a basket as Naugatuck took control of the game.
Angelina Piccirillo (16 points) came down on the Greyhounds’ first possession and tied the game with a 3 and then drove the baseline to put Naugatuck out in front 5-3. Then the defense went to work.
On the next three Crosby possessions, Emma Colucci (11 points), Piccirillo and Jackie Aronin made steals at half-court and converted them into buckets. By the time Aronin completed a three-point play, the ‘Hounds were safely out in front 12-3 and Crosby was heading for a timeout.
The Bulldogs chased the lead the rest of the way as the Greyhounds battled for every loose ball while answering every basket. Christina Batista (five rebounds), Nicole Boucher and Christina Jando gave Naugatuck enough of a presence inside despite the distinct height advantage by Crosby that helped create a 29-22 edge on the boards.
“Actually I thought we did a good job rebounding against them,” Ruccio said. “Crosby was physical and they did a lot of hand checking, but we did a good job controlling the tempo of the game.”
Naugatuck struggled to come up with points in the second period with Piccirillo scoring all six points in the frame. Megan Warnke and Andrea Mercer came on to put a spark in the ‘Hounds, but the defense came away with another six steals and Naugy won the battle on the boards by outrebounding Crosby 10-7 in the period.
Za’Nayia Love (12 points) was a force inside for the Bulldogs and Destin Trammell (16 rebounds) gave Crosby enough second chances but Naugatuck still led 21-18 at the half.
“We made some adjustments since the last time we played them,” Ruccio said. “This time we pressed and our guards did a great job doubling down to help out inside. We got some big minutes out of Jackie Aronin as she played strong defense and grabbed some rebounds for us.”
Jessica Butler ripped away a rebound and threw it back in off the glass to stop Crosby’s momentum early in the second half, and on the next trip down the floor Colucci (five assists, five steals) found Butler for a running one-hander in the lane. Colucci then stole an inbounds pass and took it coast-to-coast to open up a 29-19 lead with 3:31 left in the third period. Taylor Campos came on to shore up the defensive effort as Crosby scored just 11 second-half points.
The Bulldogs’ height helped them close the gap to 31-27 entering the final period. Piccirillo showed she could contribute without scoring when she drew the defense and dished three straight assists to Colucci and Jando for a 37-27 lead with 2:05 to go.
“I never doubt these girls,” Ruccio said. “They may have doubted themselves at times but I have never doubted them. I still believe we have some wins ahead of us and the goal is to make the states and the NVL tournament.”
Naugatuck stumbled Wednesday at Torrington, 63-23, to fall to 6-9 on the year. Piccirillo led the Greyhounds with 15 points.
The ‘Hounds, who are two wins away from qualifying for the state playoffs, will stay on the road Friday against Seymour before returning home Tuesday against Kennedy.