Up-and-down year leads to postseason for Greyhounds
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team celebrated a very special senior night last Thursday, honoring eight players who took their home court for the final time in their high school careers.
Senior captains Angelina Piccirillo, Emma Colucci, Jessica Butler and Christina Batista joined senior teammates Jessica Case, Christina Jando, Michaela Pruchnicki and Jill Monck at center court along with their families at halftime during the game against Torrington to bid farewell to the hometown crowd.
The Greyhounds have gone through an up-and-down season but managed to reach a couple of team goals along the way. Two weeks ago Naugatuck qualified for the Class L state tournament by earning their eighth win of the season against Wilby.
The ‘Hounds had an outside shot of qualifying for the Naugatuck Valley League tournament last Thursday against Torrington, and turned in an all-out performance. However, the ‘Hounds came up on the short end of a 52-36 final margin. The 16-point loss was a marked improvement from the 40 point loss at Torrington four weeks earlier.
It was evident early on that Naugatuck came out to play not only for senior night but a shot at a spot in the NVL tournament. With 2:08 left in the first period Naugatuck led 7-4. Piccirillo (18 points) had six of the Greyhounds’ points and the defensive efforts of Jando, Batista and Pruchnicki had caused four Torrington turnovers.
But Naugy was getting beat on the boards and that soon took its toll. The Raiders owned a 10-3 edge in rebounds and three late turnovers by Naugatuck handed Torrington a slim 12-8 lead going into the second period.
“We stayed with them in the first half,” Naugatuck head coach Jodie Ruccio said. “But you can’t turn the ball over the way we did and not be able to get a rebound and expect to stay in the game. I’m happy for our seniors that they made the postseason but we need to start playing like we believe we belong in the tournament. There have been times when we struggled on offense and it started to affect every portion of our game.”
Naugatuck quickly fell behind by 10 in the second period as the Raiders took full advantage of second and third chances in the paint. Paige Middleton (12 points, nine assists, five steals) proved to be a handful for the ‘Hounds to contain. With 2:01 left before the half Jackie Aronin delivered a wake-up call in the form of a huge 3-pointer.
Batista fought for a rebound and Case took it down the other end to put it in off the window. Piccirillo and Nicole Boucher both hit a pair at the line and the Greyhounds were back in it, trailing 23-17 at the half.
Still, Torrington held a distinct 26-6 advantage in rebounds and the ‘Hounds had 12 turnovers that led to numerous Raider opportunities in transition with Olivia Morrison knocking down 12 points.
Piccirillo landed a 3-pointer to start the third period to cut the deficit at 23-20 before Torrington went on a tear. By the time Butler went baseline with a drive the Raiders were back out in front 30-22.
The lead reached 38-22 when Piccirillo closed the gap to 38-26 with a pair of buckets heading into the final period. Naugatuck never got any closer as Torrington continued to pull away down the stretch.
Despite the defeat Naugatuck earned the eighth and final spot in the NVL tournament on a tiebreaker after Kennedy beat Crosby. The Greyhounds faced No. 1 Holy Cross and bowed out in Saturday’s quarterfinal round by a 66-39 margin.
Piccirillo led the ‘Hounds with 13 points, Boucher added 12 and Colucci chipped in with nine.
The No. 27 seed Greyhounds (8-13) will be on the road in first-round action of the Class L state tournament March 4 against No. 6 Wilton (17-3).