NAUGATUCK — For the players on the Naugatuck High boys basketball team, the loss the Holy Cross in late December, the Greyhounds’ first loss of the season, was a tough one to swallow.
The matchup was highly anticipated as Naugatuck beat two city schools to begin the year and Holy Cross was putting up scores that typically only NBA teams put up. Holy Cross prevailed, 69-62, Dec. 27 at Naugatuck.
Jean Lukau, who is second in the NVL in scoring behind Sacred Heart’s Isiah Gaiter, scored 24 against the Crusaders while Derrick Jagello netted 16 and Latrel Deveaux added 12.
After suffering their first loss, head coach Mike Wilson knew the next few games would be important for his Greyhounds.
“That Holy Cross game burned us and we hit a tough spot,” Wilson said. “I think the guys had a chip on their shoulder after that game and they understood they had to buy in and play Naugatuck basketball.”
The Greyhounds responded with back-to-back victories against St. Paul and Woodland to improve to 4-1.
In their 42-37 win at St. Paul (2-4) on Jan. 3, Deveaux led the way for the Greyhounds with 15 points while Lukau chipped in with 11.
Naugatuck cruised to a 69-39 win on Tuesday at home versus Woodland (3-3). Lukau had another monster game with a game-high 27 points, including five 3-pointers, and Caleb Scott added 11.
The Greyhounds showcased their defense against St. Paul and Woodland, holding the Falcons and Hawks to just 76 points combined.
The defensive effort was there against Holy Cross as well. After Holy Cross scored 199 points combined in the first two games, Naugatuck held the Crusaders to 69.
“Being disciplined on defense is what we have been talking about a lot,” Wilson said. “Sometimes we try to make a steal or run through a lane instead of just manning up and being responsible for our guy. We gave up 39 points tonight (versus Woodland) and 37 points to St. Paul. That is our program and that is what we have been talking about for a long time.”
After starting the year off with some tough opponents, the schedule lightens up a little for the Greyhounds as they near the midway point of their season.
Naugatuck will visit Crosby on Wednesday. The combined record of Naugatuck’s next five NVL opponents after the Bulldogs, including a home tilt with Watertown on Friday, is 11-15 before a battle with unbeaten Sacred Heart on Jan. 30.
Putting away these opponents would certainly boost the Greyhounds’ confidence heading into the clash with the Hearts, and Wilson said the team is coming together at the right time.
“We’re making the right steps,” Wilson said. “The players are starting to believe in what we’re preaching. They are starting to see results. We’re really gelling and being unselfish right now.
“Now we have to stay consistent. We’re not going to change our tune or change anything. It’s really important to me that we stay focused one game at a time and to humble ourselves.”