NAUGATUCK — Winning can sometimes create a higher expectation than what reality dictates.
The Naugatuck boys basketball team opened the season 8-2 with the only losses coming against Holy Cross and Crosby.
Along the way, head coach Mike Wilson warned his team not to lose focus and get caught up in the emotion of it all.
The Greyhounds dropped five of the next six games. A loss to Sacred Heart, the top team in the NVL, may have been anticipated, but losses to Derby and Woodland left some questions about the legitimacy of the fast start.
“We won some tight games early on,” Wilson said. “That momentum also gave us false hope, almost an illusion, as I have been saying. We began to think we were better than we were.
“We are an undersized team who has to be committed to being fundamentally sound and playing unselfishly. We went through a rough patch where we either had someone out with sickness, suspended or in foul trouble, and we had to learn to play through the adversity.”
The Greyhounds head into the final regular season game against Oxford on Friday with back-to-back wins under their belt. Naugatuck (11-8) looks to make it three straight wins heading into the Naugatuck Valley League tournament, which tips off Saturday at Wilby at 11 a.m. Seedings and game times are to be determined.
The turnaround began with a loss to a very good Torrington team on Feb. 9. Jean Lukau led the way for Naugatuck with 39 points. Elijah Robinson threw in a career-high 20 points, but the Raiders escaped with a 73-72 win after hitting a pair of free throws with one second left.
The Torrington game got the Greyhounds’ mojo back.
Naugatuck then went out and took over the next game at Watertown on Feb. 12, a 77-50 win. Lukau knocked down a game-high 25 points. Jesse Lanci hit for 15, Robinson had 12 and Derrick Jagello tacked on 10 points.
“The kids have bought into the idea that no one is bigger than the program,” Wilson said. “In order for us to be successful, everyone must do their part and play their roles. The key lesson I want to teach these kids is to learn how to compete in whatever you are doing in life and to enjoy the competition.”
The Greyhounds proved they can still pull out the close ones as they upended Wolcott, 57-55, on Feb. 14. Lukau led the way with 21 points, but the ‘Hounds also got key points from Jaden Bennett and Lanci, who each had eight points, and Jagello, who added seven points, to hold off the Eagles.
The Greyhounds will look to continue their play of late Saturday in the NVL tournament.
“You never know when the ball is going to bounce your way,” Wilson said. “You never know what can happen at this time of year. I’m just glad we have the opportunity to compete.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the game against Oxford was postponed to Friday.