NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys won the battle on the boards against St. Paul Friday, holding a 9-8 advantage on buckets in the paint. But it was the hot outside shooting of the Falcons that did in the Greyhounds, as St. Paul escaped the borough with a 55-47 win.
Naugatuck, 1-11 on the season, had no answer for the Falcons’ perimeter ace, Chris Borea (19 points), who sent five three-pointers through the net. The Greyhounds certainly gave St. Paul a run for their money with Warren Buerkle (14 points) back in the lineup.
For one of the first times this season, the Garnet and Grey held the halftime lead, guarding a 25-23 advantage. It was the inside play of Tyler Krupa (11 points), Tyler Conklin (10 points, three blocks) and Kyle Krupa (six points, 10 rebounds) that gave the Hounds a presence under the basket.
But when the Falcons hit the court to begin the third period, they started to shoot out the lights. The first three Falcon baskets came from behind the arcm and the momentum began to shift toward St. Paul.
Turnovers played a key role; every time Naugatuck got within striking distance, errant passes went through the hands of open shooters and out of bounds. Turnovers are part of the game, but for the Greyhounds, they came at crucial times and allowed the Falcons to stay in control of the game.
“We are playing hard, and we are hustling,” Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche said. “I can’t fault them for that. But we are making crucial mistakes in the flow of the game. If we learn to minimize our mistakes and maximize our opportunities, we can turn this around.”
Naugatuck showed that kind of resilience in the opening period, when the Falcons (6-4) went on a 9-0 run and threatened to run the Greyhounds out of their own gym. Tyler Krupa threw down a pair of shots in the lane, and Marty DeJesus sank one at the line, as the Hounds were back in it, trailing, 11-8, going into the second quarter.
It was time for Naugatuck to turn up the pressure, and Jamaal Gee provided it, dropping a three into the cylinder to tie the game at 11-11. Buerkle threw down a put-back, and Kyle Krupa added a one-hander off the window.
St. Paul was looking to get it going on offense, but Naugatuck continued to crash the boards, giving the visitors only one look at the basket. Matt Zahornasky barreled into the lane and converted a thunderous put-back and when Kyle Krupa again showed his soft touch from the corner, the Greyhounds were in control, holding a nine-point advantage, at 24-15, with to go 2:38 before the half.
The Falcons regrouped in time to outscore Naugatuck, 8-1, down the stretch to cut the deficit to 25-23 at the break. Naugatuck needed to continue to pound the boards and hold onto the basketball, while St. Paul needed to regain the offense momentum that ignited a 9-0 outburst at the start of the game.
“We have to be smarter with the ball and try and control the clock,” Wesche said. “We can’t allow teams to go on runs due to our costly mistakes. Unfortunately, we are making the same mistakes game after game. Hopefully, with a little time away and time to reflect, we can come back on Monday and regain the focus to turn this thing around.”
As the teams came out for the second half, it was obvious from the start that St. Paul had decided to take the contest in a different direction. The first three baskets of the period came from behind the arc—Borea alone nailed three in the period—and the Falcons took a 40-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
Conklin (three treys) also hit from long range, but when the game got close, Naugatuck continued to throw away the ball and never caught up. A quick, 7-0 spurt by the Falcons opened up a double-digit lead, at 47-37, and Naugatuck chased that deficit the rest of the way.
Naugatuck will have its hands full this week, traveling to Crosby Tuesday and Holy Cross Friday.