Game-changer

Piccirillo leads ‘Hounds on the court

Naugatuck’s Angelina Piccirillo (10) leads the Greyhounds in scoring with 15.6 points per game and is the floor general on the court. –FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck’s Angelina Piccirillo (10) leads the Greyhounds in scoring with 15.6 points per game and is the floor general on the court. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team came into the season with eight seniors wanting to leave their mark by qualifying for the postseason.

The inside game of Christina Batista and Christina Jando, the defensive work of Jessica Case, Michaela Pruchnicki and Jill Monck and seasoned guards Emma Colucci and Jessica Butler all combined to give Naugy a veteran presence.

But Naugatuck also has the game-changer — the player who takes off the pressure when she’s on the court — and that is leading scorer Angelina Piccirillo.

The ‘Hounds started out slow this season, dropping the first two contests until they all got accustomed to each other out on the court and ripped off four straight wins. The reality of going out in style started to come into sight. That’s when the bottom dropped out as injuries and illness handed Naugatuck losses in six of the next seven games.

Still, the close senior class has helped keep it all together.

“All the seniors have grown up together and we are all best friends,” Piccirillo said. “We knew what we had coming into the season. It hasn’t turned out like we had hoped for but there has never been any bickering or complaining about it. We are all in this together and with a couple of weeks left to play in the regular season and we are still in this thing. It would really be the ultimate to end our high school careers qualifying for the NVL and state tournaments.”

Piccirillo, averaging 15.6 points a game, is in reality the floor general. When she is on the court Naugatuck plays a pressure defense and for the most part can keep up with opponents on the scoreboard. When she is not on the court Naugatuck just plays like a different team.

Piccirillo came down with mononucleosis at the beginning of January and Naugatuck went into a tailspin. The ‘Hounds hit rock bottom when they lost four in a row and six in seven games. The possibility of making the postseason was slipping away with each loss.

“We missed Angie when she was out with mono,” Naugatuck coach Jodie Ruccio said. “The girls just feel safe when she is out on the court, much like they did when we had Lauren Piroscafo or Jess Webber out there. Now that Angie is back I still need to watch her minutes and work her to get back into playing shape.”

With Piccirillo back in the lineup, Naugatuck has been able to toss a few more games into the win column with victories over Crosby and Seymour. The Greyhounds turned the tables on a Crosby team they lost to by 18 points earlier in the season. Piccirillo led the way with 16 points and the rest of the team thrived with its captain back on the court.

Last Friday Naugatuck pulled within one game of making the state tournament in a 41-36 win over Seymour as the damage was spread around. With Piccirillo on the floor, the rest of the team plays better. Colucci led the team in scoring with nine points, while Piccirillo had eight, Nicole Boucher scored seven and Jackie Aronin posted six.

“The key to our game is our defense,” Piccirillo said. “It’s about boxing out, making steals and turning on our transition game. It’s what we call 84 feet of heat. The entire team starts to feed off that energy.”

Naugatuck lost a tough one on Tuesday, 44-41 to Kennedy, despite Piccirillo’s 17 points. The ‘Hounds dropped to 7-10 on the season and need one more win in their last three games to reach the state tournament.

Naugy is home Tuesday against Wilby and will play at Sacred Heart on Thursday. They close out the regular season Feb. 18 against Torrington.

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