STAMFORD — The Naugatuck boys basketball team’s season came to an end Tuesday night in the first round of the Division II tournament.
No. 16 Stamford took the lead early and held off a rally by No. 17 Naugatuck to earn a 65-57 first-round win.
Stamford (14-7) led the Greyhounds (12-9) 17-13 after the first quarter and extended the lead to 36-20 at the half.
Naugatuck, led by Jean Lukau with 23 points, came out of halftime with a purpose and outscored the Black Knights 21-10 in the third to cut to deficit to five points entering the fourth quarter.
The Greyhounds cut the lead to three on back-to-back possessions late in the game but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Latrel Deveaux finished with 10 points for Naugatuck, and Elijah Robinson added nine points.
“We lost a tough one tonight,” Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson said after the game. “But I couldn’t be any prouder of the way we battled back. We showed a lot of heart and determination. The ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
It has been a steady climb back up the ladder to respectability for the Greyhounds ever since they finished as the Class L runner-up in the 2014-15 season. The Greyhounds went 5-15 in 2015-16 and improved to 10-10 last season.
This year, Naugatuck got off to a strong 8-2 start, but a second-half slump sent the Greyhounds into the postseason at 12-7. Naugy only had three seniors on the roster and lacked height but still managed to stay with the top teams in the league.
“I told the boys at the beginning of the year that we could care less about wins and losses,” Wilson said. “It’s more about character and the respect we show the game of basketball. We play the right way. We try our best to give the kids an understanding of accountability through hard work. No entitlement is given only earned.”
“The boys battled through a lot of adversity,” Wilson added. “In return they gained valuable life lessons through basketball, and to me that’s a successful season.”
The Greyhounds will lose seniors Deveaux, Jaden Bennett and Rithvik Rajkumar to graduation.
The core of the team was a group of juniors, including Lukau, who finished sixth in the NVL in scoring per game (23.4) and was named to the All-NVL team.
Robinson, who was a first-year starting point guard and steered the offense to some big wins over Waterbury schools, was named to the All-Iron Division team.
Lukau and Robinson will be a big part of the offense next season, but the Greyhounds will also look to the continued development of junior Jesse Lanci and sophomore Derrick Jagello, who both scored double-digit points on multiple occasions.
Juniors Shane Carey, Jayden Anderson, Andrew Robertson will be back, and Keywan Edwards-Garris and John Mezzo are sophomores who could develop into players who will see valuable varsity minutes next season.
Wilson will also be keeping an eye of freshmen Justin Barth, Gary Bennett and Robert Sanders, three players who could help out the inside game next year.