Hounds girls clinch state tourney berth

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NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls’ basketball team made senior night extra special Friday by qualifying for the Class L state tournament with a 54-33 win over Wolcott in the last game of the regular season.

It was a special night for the Greyhounds’ six seniors, who played the final home game of their careers and turned it into a momentous occasion. Naugatuck, 7-12 entering the contest, needed one more victory to extend its season and fought off an early deficit to come away with the W.

All six seniors found their way into the scorebook, led by Jessica Webber (16 points and four assists). The Greyhounds fired nine three-pointers, with Julia Longo (13 points, nine steals) leading the way with three treys.

Naugatuck's six seniors, Jessica Webber, Melissa Miller, Alexis Granahan and Julia Longo, celebrated senior night by qualifying for the Class L state tournament.

Naugatuck's six seniors, Jessica Webber, Melissa Miller, Kristen Myers, Danielle Charette, Alexis Granahan and Julia Longo, celebrated senior night by qualifying for the Class L state tournament.

Danielle Charette added 11 points, including a pair of threes, and Kristen Myers also hit two from behind the arc, sparking a 12-3 run late in the second period that put Naugy in control of the game.

Melissa Miller had four points and six rebounds, and Alexis Granahan added two points and five steals, as Naugatuck turned up its defensive effort, holding Wolcott to single-digit totals in each of the final three quarters.

“I can’t say enough about this group of seniors,” Naugatuck head coach Jodie Ruccio said. “They were determined to make it back to the states. … One thing is for sure: We have another game to play, and we will go back to practice and get ready to play another game.”

The Hounds did not qualify for the Naugatuck Valley League tournament; they finished ninth in the league, one spot out of the tourney. No. 8 Kennedy (8-11) was scheduled to visit Wilby (12-7) Wednesday, and though a loss by the Eagles would leave Kennedy and Naugatuck with matching, 8-12 ledgers, Kennedy owns the tiebreaker because it has eight league victories, and Naugy has seven.

Wolcott came in at 6-12, needing to win its final two games, and looked like a team with an awful lot to play for. Allison McDonald (10 points) and Marissa Briere (nine points) gave the Eagles a quick, 7-2 lead, causing Naugatuck to take its first timeout.

Charette got the Greyhounds headed in the right direction when she took it baseline then buried a three to tie the game at 7-7. Wolcott responded by pounding the ball inside and forged a 13-11 advantage heading into the second period.

The Eagles took their final lead of the game, at 17-14 midway through the second period. Naugatuck began to shift gears and used a defensive presence to create a transition game that sparked the 12-3 run. Webber fired a three from the wing, and Myers was in the right place at the right time to throw in a put-back off the window.

Charette and Longo canned back-to-back downtowners to open up a 26-20 lead, as the teams headed to the locker room at the break.

Naugatuck came out in the second half and picked it right back up, with the Charette-Longo tandem hitting a pair of long-range threes to help the Greyhounds pull away.

Lauren Piroscafo and Renee Augustine came on to keep up the defensive pressure, as Wolcott could counter with only six points in the period. Naugatuck took a comfortable, 41-26 lead into the final eight minutes of the game.

Amber Kuczenski, Michelle Trochsler and Melissa Leggett came on, as one by one the seniors exited the game to a rousing ovation, with Naugatuck safely out in front, 47-29, with 6:02 to go.