WATERBURY — Two weeks ago, Naugatuck boys basketball coach Mike Wilson talked about his team having the potential to surprise a few teams in the second half of the season. The secret is out and the ‘Hounds won’t be sneaking up on anyone anymore.
Naugy stunned the Wilby Wildcats on Monday night at the Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium, earning a hard-fought 57-53 win in overtime.
Naugatuck did it in style. It battled back from a 12-point deficit when the Wildcats were threatening to run Naugy out of the gym. The ‘Hounds played savvy defense, allowing just three baskets in the fourth period and only two in overtime.
But the game was decided at the foul line, where Naugatuck shot 76 percent (16-of-21), including an ice-running-through-the-veins, 10-of-12 performance in overtime.
“Late in the game we were playing smart basketball,” said Jason Bradley, who scored 12 points and was 4-of-6 at the line in overtime. Once we made a few shots at the line it gave us a lot confidence knowing Wilby had to foul us and we were in control of the game down the stretch.”
Bryan Coney (seven rebounds) and Maleek Brooks (four points, four rebounds) played a key role in helping Naugatuck establish an inside presence. That allowed Ryne Griesenauer (12 points, 10 rebounds) to roam in the paint and exploit the matchups in the low post.
“This Wilby team is one of the best teams in the NVL competing for a championship, and to come in here and play like this says an awful lot about the character of our team,” Griesenauer said.
Naugatuck made it known right from the start that it had come to play. Griesenauer floated one through the cylinder from the side and Dayvon Russell (eight points, six assists) stepped behind the arc and buried a 3 from the top of the key. Bradley got around a defender and swished the bucket as Naugy trailed 14-13 heading into the second period.
Wilby responded with a 10-1 run in the final three minutes of the half to open up an eight-point lead on the strength of Taifa Wright (27 points). Brooks managed to come away with a steal and converted it into a bucket down the other end to close the gap to 26-20 at the break.
Jordan Booker and Josh Aviles came on in the second half to provide a little more defensive presence to try to slow down the Wildcats, who built a 36-24 lead. C.J. Wall (19 points) hit a couple of drives to the basket sandwiched around a huge 3-pointer from Bradley and Naugy trailed 40-35 heading into the final period.
The Wildcats had stretched out the lead to 44-37 when the Greyhounds responded. Wall hit a shot down on the baseline and on the next trip came away with the steal. He dribbled behind his back to get free and went coast-to-coast, making it a three-point play on the foul shot.
Russell lined one up at the top of the key and dropped a 3-pointer and Wall took one down the lane to open up a surprising 47-44 lead with 1:31 left to play. It completed a 10-0 run for Naugy.
Wright buried a 3 from the corner that tied the game at 47-47 with 1:13 to go. Bradley missed a shot with 22 seconds left, and Naugatuck had three fouls to give which let it wind down the clock and leave Wilby with a long shot that banged off the back of the rim.
The Wildcats decided to put Naugy on the line in overtime but the ‘Hounds turned the tables. Griesenauer went 4-for-4, Wall went 2-for-2 and Bradley was 4-of-6 for all of the 10 points in the overtime session.
Wilby could only counter with two baskets, the last with 15 seconds left, but the Greyhounds were still out in front by two possessions and held on to run out the clock.
Naugatuck (7-9) needs one more win to qualify for the state tournament. Naugy returns to action Wednesday against Sacred Heart at home. They’ll host Torrington on Saturday and hit the road to face the Red Raiders again Tuesday.