NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team may be seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel.
The Greyhounds, who are depleted by injuries and have to fill those roles with inexperienced younger players, just finished a stretch of eight games that saw them take on some of the Naugatuck Valley League’s heavy hitters.
On Tuesday, Kennedy (7-3) upended the Greyhounds, 56-27. Molly Kennedy led the Greyhounds (3-9) in scoring for the fifth time this season with nine points.
The true grit of this team showed in last Friday’s battle with undefeated St. Paul (11-0) in Bristol. Naugatuck held a 7-4 lead early and emerged from the first quarter trailing by a 14-9 margin.
On the strength of a couple of inside buckets from Ally Mezzo the Greyhounds were within striking distance down 19-15 with four minutes left in the first half. But turnovers played a key role as the Falcons closed out the half on a 12-1 run to open up a 31-16 advantage at the break.
Naugatuck held St. Paul to just nine points in the third quarter and faced a manageable 40-25 deficit entering the final quarter before falling, 52-29.
The one strength that Naugatuck has shown all season is a stout defense. In every game this year the Greyhounds have held their opponents to single digits in at least one quarter, but turnovers have hampered the offensive production.
“Turnovers have been a key factor in slowing down our offense,” Naugatuck head coach Jodie Burns said. “Whether that is from inexperience from some of the younger players or trying to do too much with our opportunities, it still comes down to converting our shots.”
Burns added the Greyhounds have not taken advantage of their chances in the paint.
“If we got half of our shots to go down on layups we would be in every one of our games,” she said. “We have faced some pretty stiff competition with Holy Cross, St. Paul and Kennedy in just the past two weeks.
“But we do have some games coming up that can end up in the win column. The girls are working hard and staying positive. And that showed in our effort against St. Paul. We let one slip away against Seymour (a 45-41 loss on Jan. 13) and turnovers in key situations was our downfall.”
The good news for the Greyhounds is that Alyana Sosa was cleared to play and is back in the lineup. The other silver lining is that the schedule gets a little lighter now that the heavy hitters are out of the way.
Naugatuck still needs five wins in the final eight games to qualify for the state tournament. That is a tall order for a team that is lacking depth due to injuries. But that task is not impossible as players like Jackie Aronin, Mezzo and Mia Rotatori have shown the ability to chip in and help out Nicole Boucher and Kennedy on the scoring end.
Andrea Mercer and Alexis Woods are getting the job done defensively. Hailey Deitelbaum and Shannon Burns offer the Greyhounds a pair of three-point threats.
Naugatuck will host Sacred Heart, a team the Greyhounds already defeated, Friday night on YMCA Night. On Monday, Greyhounds will host Torrington on Hillside/Cross Street Night, before concluding a three-game homestand Jan. 29 versus Derby on Maple Hill Night.
“The team always seems to rise to the occasion on these specialty nights with a much larger home crowd,” Burns said. “There are still a few games out there that can end up in the win column and now that we are out of the woods I feel we still have the potential to make the postseason.”