NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team came into this season with a lot to prove. Gone are the bright lights of the Mohegan Sun and virtually the entire starting lineup that brought the ‘Hounds to the brink of a state championship in March.
“The expectation coming into this season was just to continue with the development of the program,” head coach Mike Wilson said. “We may be transitioning with a whole new group of kids, but the principles are still in place. Playing team basketball, being unselfish and playing with pride.”
The Greyhounds got the season under way Saturday in front of a boisterous home crowd, but it was different and the same all in one as Naugy fell to Ansonia, 54-50.
Wilson and his staff have laid a solid foundation and this year’s group just needs to believe in each other. That belief started to take hold right around the 3:48 mark of the third period versus the Chargers (1-0) when the Greyhounds (0-1) were staring down the barrel of a 16-point deficit.
Ansonia was running up and down the floor and seemingly every shot rolled around the rim and fell through the net. Naugatuck desperately was trying to keep pace, but shot after shot slid off the glass or clanged off the front of the rim.
Trailing 35-19 late in the third period, the Greyhounds’ surge started when Tyler Deitelbaum threw himself to the floor for a loose ball with his team down by 16 points.
The ‘Hounds weren’t going anywhere but back in this ballgame. Even if they were the only ones in the building who believed it.
“That’s just basketball,” Wilson said. “Sometimes you get the bounces and sometimes it goes against you. But that shouldn’t determine how you play the game. These boys came back the way they did on heart, not the bounces going their way.”
Caleb Scott (six points) got the ball through traffic twice to Fejiro Onakpoma (28 points, eight rebounds) to give Naugy its first back-to-back buckets of the game. Onakpoma latter sank a pair at the line to cut Ansonia’s lead to 39-25 heading into the final period.
The Greyhounds pulled themselves up by the boot straps and for all the missed shots only trailed 41-33 with 4:40 to go. Andre Trosan stole a ball and fed it to James Mesidor (six points, five rebounds, three steals) who took it down the lane.
Antoine Sistrunk tore down a rebound at the other end and hit Onakpoma for a turn-around jumper at the top of the key. Mesidor stole the next advance up the floor and got it to Onakpoma for a thunderous dunk as the Chargers retreated to a timeout with the Ed Mariano Gymnasium rocking to a fevered pitch.
“The key to getting through adversity is to stay together and stay positive,” Wilson said. “We could have easily put our heads down and got selfish going for numbers. But they didn’t, they stayed together and played for each other.”
With the game on the line, Wilson showed no hesitation going to his bench. Corey Plasky and Tyler Waters came away with steals and the Ansonia offense was starting to have trouble bringing the ball past half court.
Mike Plasky rippled the net with a three, and with just 19 ticks left on the clock Steve Marinaro posted up in the corner and buried a three to make it a 53-48 deficit. The Greyhounds didn’t complete the comeback, but what they did do will go a long way in determining their fate this season as they found a reason to believe.
“It’s all about staying together,” Wilson said. “We’ll get through this, we’ll get better as a team and we will come out successful because we will do this as a team.”
The Greyhounds’ next challenge is Tuesday when they host Wolcott at 7 p.m.