NAUGATUCK — The Greyhounds have struggled this season trying to run and gun with the best of the Naugatuck Valley League. They changed their tactic Friday and came out against Seymour with a defensive presence that knocked the Cats off their game.
But while working to keep Seymour in check, the Hounds lost a little bit of their own offensive oomph and came up on the short end of a 54-42 final.
“Our goal wasn’t to go out there and slow down the pace of the game,” Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche said. “We did want to limit them to one look at the basket and pick it up on the other end. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen the way we had planned it. Seymour did a good job of working the ball around, and they were very patient. We really had no answer for Kyle Moran, especially in the final period.”
It was evident early that neither team was going to scorch the nets. Three minutes into the game, it was a 2-2 battle; under the boards, it looked like a rush-hour traffic jam. With 2:59 to play in the first quarter, Matt Zahornasky went hard to the rack for a put-back that tied the game at 6-6.
Moran gave Seymour the lead, scoring six of his game-high 24 points in the period, as the Cats took a slim, 9-8 advantage into the second quarter. Seymour came out quickly in the second, piling on a 13-4 spurt to gain control of the game, up 22-12, with three minutes to play in the half.
The Naugatuck defense went into overdrive, with Christian Nuenez and Kyle Krupa (eight points) contributing to the presence in the paint. They helped hold Seymour scoreless over the final three minutes, but Naugatuck had only a bucket off a steal by Tyler Krupa (15 points) and a free throw from Dashawn Wingate to show for their effort and trailed, 22-15, going into the break.
“With their 3-2 spread out, we wanted to try and exploit the middle a little bit,” Wesche said. “We did a good job defensively, holding them to just 22 points in the first half, but we needed to do a little better than 15 points on our side of the scoreboard.”
The Wildcats came out in the second half and tried to work the ball inside, but Zahornasky had something to say about that, with two thunderous blocks in the paint. That dictated the flow of the period, as the Cats took it outside, and Moran rippled the net for a three.
Tyler Krupa came down and answered with a three, as Naugatuck was looking for a spark on offense. Kyle Krupa hit a turn-around jumper in the lane, but Seymour maintained its advantage, outscoring the Hounds by a 10-9 margin to take a comfortable, 32-24 lead into the final period.
Warren Buerkle went on a tear to start the fourth quarter. On three straight possessions, Buerkle took it to the basket, and the final drive came off a steal that cut the deficit to 32-30 with 6:28 to go.
Moran stepped behind the arc and buried a three to cool off the Hounds. Tyler Krupa wasted no time coming down and answering with a three at the other end, and Kyle Krupa added a free throw to close the deficit to 35-34.
Over the next two minutes Seymour put it away, responding with a 9-0 run that Tyler Krupa finally stopped by dropping his third three of the game with 2:53 to play.
Naugatuck was still chasing a 44-37 deficit. Kyle Krupa finished off a three-point play to close the Hounds within 46-40 with 1:23 left, but Seymour finished it off by outscoring Naugatuck, 8-2, the rest of the way.