WATERBURY — After the season-opener between Naugatuck and Sacred Heart back in December — a 51-23 victory for the Hearts — Naugatuck head coach Gail Cheney proclaimed, “Now there is a team that will play for the NVL title.”
Little did she realize at the time it would be her girls that would be standing in Sacred Heart’s way of a championship.
No. 3 Naugatuck and No. 4 Sacred Heart will face off Wednesday night in the Naugatuck Valley League championship game at Kennedy High School. The game tips off at 7 p.m.
Naugatuck earned a 45-36 win over No. 7 Wolcott and Sacred Heart knocked off top-seeded Holy Cross, 54-42, in the semifinals Monday night at Kennedy to set up the title game.
“I’m so proud of what these girls have accomplished,” said Cheney after the semifinals. “We are going on to the next game and that is amazing.”
“So why not us,” added Cheney about winning the NVL title.
Naugatuck and Sacred Heart are both in their first title game since the NVL tournament started.
The surprising Greyhounds (19-3) have put together a remarkable season under Cheney, who’s in her first year at Naugatuck.
The Greyhounds have done it by playing team basketball and spreading the ball around. Naugatuck didn’t have a player named to the All-NVL team, but three players — Alyana Sosa, Hailey Deitelbaum and Bridget Rosikiewicz — were named to the All-Iron team.
Naugatuck’s starting lineup boasts consistency. Sosa brings the ball up court and is averaging 8.6 points per game, with 3-point specialist Shannon Burns averaging 8.7 points per game.
Bridget Rosikiewicz and Deitelbaum work under the boards and average 7.7 and 7.1 points per game respectively. Out on the perimeter is Mia Rotatori, who averages 7 points per game.
In the semis against Wolcott, it was Burns who led the way with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Sosa added nine points to go along with three assists and four steals.
But the difference in the game came in the paint where Naugatuck outrebounded Wolcott, 38-28. Rosikiewicz only scored two points but pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Deitelbaum had seven points and eight rebounds, and Alexis Woods pulled down eight rebounds and added six points.
The Hearts, who were in the semis for just the second time, pulled off their own surprise Monday by beating a basketball machine in Holy Cross, which has played in every final but one in the 11-year history of the tournament.
Sacred Heart (17-5) will have its hands full with Naugatuck’s diversity, which leaves opponents at a loss as to who to guard.
In the quarterfinal round on Saturday, Sosa scored 21 points to lead the Greyhounds to a 50-38 win over No. 6 Crosby.
The Greyhounds trailed the Bulldogs 24-21 at the half. In the second half, the Greyhounds’ defense smothered the Bulldogs, holding them to 14 points.
The scoring was spread around, as always. Deitelbaum scored eight points, Burns and Rosikiewicz each had six, and Rotatori added five points.
Naugatuck heads into the NVL championship game on an 11-game winning streak, including a 37-30 win over Wolcott Feb. 14 in the regular-season finale.
“We don’t have a go-to player. We are all go-to players and we believe in each other. Against Crosby, I had the open shots. [Monday] it was Shannon,” said Sosa following the semifinals. “It really doesn’t matter who is scoring, as long as we are scoring.”
Class L tournament
After the NVL final, Naugatuck will turn its attention to the Class L tournament. The Greyhounds, who are ranked fifth in Class L, are scheduled to host No. 28 Branford (7-13) Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the first round.