NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team hit a tough stretch of road over the past two weeks that turned a promising 3-3 start into a perilous 3-8 journey.
The silver lining for the Greyhounds has been that the offense seems to have turned the corner. No longer are the young Greyhounds relying on senior captains Fejiro Onakpoma and James Mesidor to score, as others, including fellow senior Antoine Sistrunk, have been going to the rack with authority.
“It’s really important to the overall success of the team to get as many players involved in the offense,” Onakpoma said.
The Naugatuck bench is developing into a solid unit that is contributing quality minutes and the team goal of reaching the postseason is still in sight.
That became apparent in a 65-46 win over Derby last Friday that ended the five-game slide.
Mesidor took charge against the Raiders and led the way with a game-high 25 points. Sistrunk and Corey Plasky added 12 and 11 points, respectively, as Naugatuck took a 29-19 lead at the half then finished off the Raiders with a 20-10 third quarter.
“The more we can open up our offense the more effective we are going to be,” Sistrunk said. “Early on when teams double teamed Fejiro we struggled. Now we are playing more team basketball and because of that I think we have a real good shot of making the states.”
Naugatuck has been getting solid contributions all season long from Andre Trosan, Caleb Scott, Tyler Waters and Tyler Deitelbaum. Lately players like Alijah Garris, Joe Kwaak and Shane Swierbitowicz, who had 10 points in an 81-63 loss to Bassick Jan. 28, have been playing quality minutes.
The Greyhounds have left a few wins on the table, including a six-point loss to St. Paul and a seven-point setback to Torrington.
But the offense is starting to find its way. Steve Marinaro scored a season-high 11 points and Mike Plasky checked in with eight points in the loss at Torrington.
“We are feeling pretty confident now that our offense is starting to pick up,” Mesidor said. “I think it was the little things that we didn’t take care of especially late in the ball game that kept us from a few games that we could have won.
“Leaving a shooter open, not getting back on defense and making turnovers at crucial points in the game. But these younger guys are really starting to step up and making us a more complete team.”
The Greyhounds dropped to 4-9 on the year with a 54-49 loss to Watertown Tuesday night.
Naugatuck held 37-29 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, but the Indians outscored the Greyhounds 25-12 in the final period to surge to the win.
Onakpoma led the way for Naugatuck with a game-high 21 points.
With seven games left in the season Naugatuck needs four more wins to achieve the team’s goal of reaching the postseason. The road ahead is filled with familiar and tough teams, including Wilby and return matchups with Bassick, Torrington and Watertown.
As the Greyhounds look to finish this season strong, Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson is also keeping an eye on the future.
“We are building a solid core of younger players for the future,” Wilson said. “But younger players are going to make mistakes and that is expected. You can’t expect to succeed if you don’t learn from your failures. I just try and be encouraging and tell them to go back out there and learn from their mistakes.”
The Greyhounds’ game versus Woodland scheduled for Feb. 5 was postponed to due snow. The Greyhounds are scheduled to host Wilby Feb. 10 and Torrington Feb. 11 before visiting Woodland Feb. 12.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect changes in the schedule.