NORWICH — The Naugatuck girls battled Norwich Free Academy in the opening round of the Class LL state tournament Tuesday and trailed, 31-20, at the half. But the No. 20-ranked Greyhounds came out slow in the third period as No. 13 NFA went on a 21-6 scoring spree in the third to pull away with a 62-35 win.
Naugatuck (10-11) only managed 15 second-half points in the season-ending loss. Angelina Piccirillo led the Greyhounds with 11 points while Amy Dietz made her presence felt in the low post with 10 points. Steph Lima and Felicia Gullotta each added four points.
NFA came into the tournament as the Eastern Connecticut Conference champion, winning six games in a row, and with a full head of steam took over in the second half.
The ‘Hounds struggled out of the gate this year and finished the first half of the season with a 3-7 mark. They turned things around, going 7-3 in the second half, including wins in the last three games of the regular season, but missed the Naugatuck Valley League tournament by one game.
“We have a lot of work to do in the offseason,” Naugatuck head coach Jodie Ruccio said. “We have three girls that are going to play AAU over the summer. But if we expect to get better we are going to need a lot more players than that committing to playing in the offseason. If we don’t we are going to have problems trying to avoid the slow start like we had this season.”
Naugatuck managed to turn things around in the second half of the season based largely on a strong defensive effort. They held opponents to fewer than 40 points in half of their games.
What spelled the difference in the outcomes were the seven games Naugatuck failed to reach the 40-point mark on offense. But when the offense clicked and broke the 50-point barrier, Naugy was a perfect 6-0.
Dietz and Piccirillo both earned All-Copper Division honors as voted upon by the league’s coaches.
Gullotta, Dietz, Lima and Sydney Cotto played their final game Tuesday.
“The kids are not going to realize how much they will miss Felicia’s defense or Amy’s leadership and rebounding,” Ruccio said. “They are going to miss Steph’s ability to play all five positions and Sydney’s work ethic (was) really our glue.”
Ruccio is encouraged to have Piccirillo and Emma Colucci coming back next year as seniors along with Jess Butler and Jess Case. Sophomore Taylor Campos saw some action on the varsity level along with freshmen Raina Ceryak, Nicole Boucher and Jackie Aronin.
“I was really impressed with the development of our freshman players,” Ruccio said. “They should have a chance to work into the mix. But we are going to be small with not a lot of defense. We will also need to find that big post presence.”
The outgoing seniors, though, will remain special to Ruccio.
“We will certainly miss our seniors who have been through a lot, especially after Josh (Jodie’s husband) passed (last season). They are the last of the crew that he coached and will always have a special place in my heart.”