NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team concluded the first half of the season with a 5-5 ledger, but the ‘Hounds came within nine points of being an 8-2 contender.
Armed with just one senior, co-captain Ryne Griesenauer, the Greyhounds boast a roster of 11 juniors, led by co-captain Jason Bradley.
In the final game of 2013, Naugatuck dropped a tough one in a 58-56 overtime loss to Bassick. Naugatuck also went toe-to-toe with Wilby last week, coming up on the short end of a 66-60 outcome. Days later the ‘Hounds battled back but fell to St. Paul in a 58-57 heartbreaker.
Despite the .500 mark, Naugy coach Mike Wilson is happy with his team’s progress and attributes much of it to Griesenauer.
“We are excited to be where we are at after the first half of the season,” Wilson said. “The leadership of Ryne has been tremendous both on and off the court as an honor roll student. He certainly makes my job easier and he communicates well with the team.”
All three of those close games had the potential of landing in the win column but all three games had the same roadblock in the way: Naugatuck has had its share of struggles battling through periods of single-digit scoring.
The ‘Hounds jumped out to an 18-15 lead over St. Paul but came up way short in the second period, putting up only three points. That proved to be the difference in the game as Naugatuck outscored the Falcons 21-12 in the fourth quarter but still fell two points shy of victory.
Griesenauer paced Naugy with 16 points. CJ Wall buried 15 points, Josh Aviles threw in nine and Bradley added eight. Dayvon Russell (six points), Maleek Brooks (two) and Bryan Coney (one) also scored while Jordan Booker and Jour’dan Hopkins contributed with spirited play.
The Greyhounds can go four more deep with juniors Tyler Saad, Dashon Russell, Kevin Robinson and Vashon Carridice.
“We have had contributions from a lot of different players,” Wilson said. “It’s a testament to the hard work these kids are putting in and they are learning to get better each and every game.”
Naugatuck has shown the intensity to pull out victories, winning a pair of knuckle-scrapers against Ansonia (47-39) and Watertown (56-49). Only two games, against Sacred Heart and Kennedy, really got away from the ‘Hounds during the first half of the season.
“This is one of the toughest leagues in the state,” Wilson said. “All the city schools are as tough as nails. But we just need to focus on every possession and not let a period get away from us like the three points we had in the second against St. Paul. We end up 9-of-12 at the foul line and they go 19-of-28, and that’s the game right there. But we just need to concentrate on taking care of business and that starts with each possession.”
The second half of the season will present plenty of challenges, but Wilson thinks his team is up for it.
“The kids are excited and feel they can turn this around in the second half of the season,” Wilson said. “We have been in every situation imaginable so far this season: overtime games, one-point games, games we had to come back in. That will make us a more experienced team down the road. We certainly feel that we have the potential to surprise a few teams along the way. Basketball is a game of runs and if we can stay away from struggling through that one period and focus on each possession and get the most out of it, we are going to turn this around.”
Naugatuck was scheduled to host Torrington on Wednesday, but school was canceled due to the snow. The game has been rescheduled to Feb. 15. The Greyhounds visit Holy Cross on Thursday and travel to league-leading Crosby on Tuesday.