New faces learning on the job

Naugatuck’s Fejiro Onakpoma (35) shoots over Holy Cross’ Justin Strielkauskas (15) and Jonathan Mowatt (24) Monday in Naugatuck. Holy Cross won the game, 72-47. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Naugatuck’s Fejiro Onakpoma (35) shoots over Holy Cross’ Justin Strielkauskas (15) and Jonathan Mowatt (24) Monday in Naugatuck. Holy Cross won the game, 72-47. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — Everyone around Naugatuck is well aware of the accomplishments of the 2014-15 Naugatuck boys basketball team. However, those days have faded and a new season is well underway for head coach Mike Wilson’s squad — a team that had to find four new starters for game one.

After Monday’s 72-47 loss to Holy Cross, the Greyhounds’ record dropped to 2-3, just one loss shy of last year’s regular season record of 16-4.

Coach Wilson knows that it takes a while for a team with this many new faces to learn about themselves, and at this point, they are still in that process.

“I just told those kids in the locker room that we still have a lot to learn,” Wilson said. “We got a lot of things to figure out as to how we are going to develop offensively and who is going to step up in terms of scoring the basketball. James (Messidor) is able to score at times and Fijero (Onakpoma) is able to score at times but nobody else has really stepped up and showed us consistency.”

That showed versus the Crusaders on Monday. In a first quarter where Naugy was outscored 17-5, Onakpoma accounted for all five of his team’s points. However, Onakpoma got into foul trouble early and was forced to sit on the bench for a majority of the game.

With Onakpoma forced to take a rest in the second quarter, Messidor stepped up offensively for the Greyhounds with six points and two assists and Steve Marinaro added two three-pointers for Naugy. While Wilson’s squad showed improvement in the quarter, the Greyhounds found themselves down 16 at halftime.

Onakpoma fouled out in the middle of the third quarter, finishing the game with seven points and eight rebounds. Messidor was the only bright spot in that quarter, accounting for six of Naugy’s nine points.

Wilson said things dramatically change when Messidor and Onakpoma, the two players with the most experience from last year’s team, get into foul trouble like on Monday night.

Naugatuck’s James Messidor (3) puts up a shot between Holy Cross defenders Dillon Collins (12) and Nyzair Rountree (3) Monday in Naugatuck. Holy Cross won the game, 72-47. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Naugatuck’s James Messidor (3) puts up a shot between Holy Cross defenders Dillon Collins (12) and Nyzair Rountree (3) Monday in Naugatuck. Holy Cross won the game, 72-47. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“If we don’t have anyone that can play in the paint for us like those guys, then it is going to be very difficult for us,” Wilson said.

That presence in the paint was missed when Onakpoma was not on the floor. Out of Holy Cross’ 72 points scored on the night, 42 of those came in the paint. The Crusaders also went 5-of-9 from three-point range for the game.

Wilson admitted that there was not much his team could have done when Holy Cross was not missing their jump shots often.

“They were on fire and they made a lot of shots,” Wilson said. “That was part of our game plan.  Because they are so tall and athletic, we wanted to keep them outside and force them to hit jump shots. Unfortunately, they hit a lot of those shots tonight.”

The loss to Holy Cross came after a win on Jan. 8 at Oxford for the Greyhounds by a count of 64-50. Onakpoma lead the way for Naugatuck against Oxford with 19 points followed by Andre Trosan with 18. Trosan left in the first quarter of Monday’s game with an apparent ankle injury and did not return.

Naugatuck improved to 3-3 on the year with a 62-43 win over Seymour on Wednesday. Onakpoma and Messidor paced the offense with 20 and 16 points respectively.

The Greyhounds will host St. Paul on Friday and Kennedy next Tuesday.