Tough stretch lies ahead for banged-up Greyhounds

Naugatuck’s Angie Piccirillo (10) has been the Greyhounds most consistent scorer this season. Piccirillo is one of several key Naugatuck players who may miss extended playing time due to injury as the Greyhounds are about to enter a key stretch of the season. –FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck’s Angie Piccirillo (10) has been the Greyhounds most consistent scorer this season. Piccirillo is one of several key Naugatuck players who may miss some time as the Greyhounds are about to enter a key stretch of the season. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team heads into one of its toughest stretches of the season, and to make matters worse the Greyhounds are a little banged up.

The ‘Hounds got a handle on the season after an 0-2 start by ripping off four straight wins, but they saw the streak come to an end Dec. 27 in a 39-32 loss to Wolcott. In that game, Naugatuck played the same kind of defense as it did during the four-game winning streak (32.7 points allowed per game), but the troubles came on the offensive end as the Greyhounds were nowhere near the 53.7 average they put together during their hot stretch.

Wolcott outscored Naugy by only one point in three of the four periods but it was the second period, when the ‘Hounds didn’t score a basket, that settled the final outcome.

“It came down to struggling through that one period when we didn’t get a basket,” Naugatuck coach Jodie Ruccio said. “We only scored seven baskets the whole game and Wolcott scored 15 baskets. We did what we needed to do defensively but we can’t go through stretches where we struggle to score points.”

Ruccio attributes some of the offensive struggles to the lack of a player who can score in droves.

“We really haven’t had that go-to scorer since Jess Webber (the program’s most recent 1,000-point scorer),” Ruccio said. “Lauren Piroscafo was a consistent scorer but Webber was able to get us through the dry spells.”

After a long layoff, the ‘Hounds struggled to score again Tuesday in a 47-23 loss to Watertown. That game kicked off a stretch that will go a long way in determining Naugy’s postseason fate. The ‘Hounds upcoming opponents over the next two weeks include Sacred Heart, St. Paul, Torrington and Holy Cross, and Naugy will face it with a team that won’t be at 100 percent health. Ruccio expects to be without Angelina Piccirillo, Taylor Campos and Christina Batista for some time.

“Angie Piccirillo has been our most consistent scorer,” Ruccio said. “When teams focus on stopping her, we struggle. She only had two baskets against Wolcott and most of her points came from the free throw line. Now she could be out with an illness and that will hurt our offense.

“Taylor Campos has been a solid contributor for us and now she could miss some games when we could least afford it,” Ruccio continued. “Christina Batista is still a couple of weeks away from coming back, so we are going to need some of the younger girls to step up.”

Those girls include Emma Colucci and Nicole Boucher on the offensive end and Christina Jando in the paint.

“Emma Colucci has done a tremendous job bringing the ball up for us,” Ruccio said. “She has gone through games with zero turnovers and that is huge. Nicole Boucher has shown the ability to be effective offensively but we are not a very deep team.”

Jessica Butler has been looking to increase her scoring options and the inspired play of Andrea Mercer and Jackie Aronin can open the door for much bigger roles down the stretch.

“We have taken so many shots that have gone in and out,” Ruccio added. “We are going to have to go minute by minute and make adjustments as we go. We can’t afford to go an entire period and struggle offensively. There are too many big games ahead of us over the next few weeks to allow that to happen. We may even bring up some younger players and see if they can step up until we get everyone back.”

The Greyhounds (4-4) will be back in action Friday at Wilby. Naugatuck will host neighboring rival Woodland on Saturday in a game that both teams need to help their chances of qualifying for the postseason.

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