NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys’ basketball team held the lead against Wilby until the 3:06 mark of the third period before the Wildcats went on to close out a 75-64 win over the Greyhounds Tuesday.
Matt Zahornasky and Kyle Krupa were saddled with four fouls each, and Wilby began to exploit the lane, a move that led to the turnaround. Lemar Larson led the Wildcats with 20 points, and he had a lot of help from Terron Robinson and Landen Manning, who scored 15 points apiece, as Wilby racked up 22 points in the third period and 23 points in the final stanza to pull away the win.
“I don’t know if we stopped looking for our offense and began to focus on Warren or if Wilby just made the adjustments and started to make the plays they had to,” Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche said.
Naugatuck (1-14) certainly had the upper hand in the first half. The Hounds raced out to an 11-2 lead. Kyle Krupa (10 points) was pounding the boards and tallied six points in the opening period to help his team take the early advantage.
Warren Buerkle scored nine of his game-high 23 points in the opening period, as Zahornasky and Christian Nunez came through with blocked shots underneath.
The Naugy defense, led by Marty DeJesus, held the Cats in check, until they ended the period on a 10-2 run.
“All in all, I’m satisfied with the effort,” Wesche said. “The intensity and the heart they played with is an indication that good things are going to happen to us.”
Dashawn Wingate buried a three, as the Hounds opened up a comfortable cushion, up 23-14. They forced numerous Wildcats turnovers, with Jamaal Gee and Nolan Kinne applying the pressure.
Tyler Conklin was hauling down the boards and converting shots at the foul line, as the Hounds’ lead continued to grow. It was a 30-21 Naugatuck lead when Wilby began to close the gap, with two minutes to play in the half.
The Cats went on a 7-0 spurt and when the two teams hit the locker room at the break, it was a ball game, with Naugatuck clinging to a 34-30 advantage.
“I think Wilby began to exploit us when our bug guys got into foul trouble,” Wesche said. “They started to attack the inside, which was smart on their part. But our guys gave it a 110 percent effort and from a coaching standpoint, that’s all you can ask for.”
The Garnet and Grey came out in the third period, determined to stay in front of the Wildcats, as Tyler Krupa (16 points) hit a turnaround jumper in the lane. Buerkle and Conklin hit free throws, and the Hounds led, 40-35, with five minutes to play in the period.
The Greyhounds came up empty over the next 3 ½ minutes, and Wilby took advantage of their hosts’ frustration. The Cats went to the foul line on three straight possessions, and Manning gave the visitors their first lead on a three-pointer, to make it 41-40 at the 3:06 mark.
By the time Naugatuck was able to get back on the scoreboard, on a Buerkle drive to the hoop with less than two minutes to play in the quarter, the Hounds trailed, 48-42. Wilby took advantage of the extra room underneath, due to NHS’ foul trouble, and converted second and third opportunities to build a 52-44 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Wilby outscored Naugatuck, 22-10, in the third, and that momentum continued in the fourth. Twice Naugatuck cut the deficit to two points, but Wilby preserved its edge by hitting eight of 12 at the line down the stretch.
Naugatuck is back in action Friday, hosting Seymour.