NAUGATUCK — The new year greeted everyone with unusually mild temperatures, and the temperature in gymnasiums throughout the Naugatuck Valley League will only get hotter as contenders for the girls basketball crown look to separate themselves from the pack.
Heading into today’s slate of games, there’s a logjam at the top of the NVL girls basketball standings with five teams with one or no losses in the league and another three with two losses.
The Naugy girls, who have won six straight games after opening the season with a loss, are one of the most diverse teams of the bunch. While most contenders rely on one or two go-to players, the Greyhounds have assembled a unit that has produced seven different leading scorers in seven games. Naugy also boasts a nucleus of nine players who have all averaged five points or more through seven games.
“We have a consistent flow of nine girls scoring,” Naugatuck head coach Gail Cheney said. “(Hailey) Deitelbaum and (Shannon) Burns are starting to come on as of late, so we are in a good flow right now.”
“Things are definitely heating up,” Cheney added. “Kendall Allen is another one of our younger girls who has been contributing, and we are putting together a nice mix of players.”
The Greyhounds are a blend of experience and youth.
Seniors Deitelbaum, Burns, Mia Rotatori and Sarah Wisniewski have each led the team in scoring at least once this season. Juniors Hailey Russell (6 ppg) and Brielle Behuniak (4 ppg) and sophomore Alyssa Roberts (4 ppg) add to Naugy’s offensive presence.
Burns and Russell led the way for Naugatuck in a holiday tournament hosted at Naugatuck High Dec. 28-29.
The Greyhounds won the tournament with a 60-47 win over Torrington and a 65-24 victory over Maloney. Burns scored a team-high 12 points versus Torrington, and the next day Russell led the way with 12 points against Maloney.
Behuniak added 10 points in the win over Maloney to notch her first double-digit scoring game of the season.
A deep and talented freshman class has also been very influential on the Greyhounds’ season thus far, with Allen, Julia Kropo, Kaylee Jackson and Sara Macary all working their way into the rotation.
That influence was evident in a 62-24 win over Wilby on Jan. 2 as Macary led the Greyhounds with 14 points. Rotatori and Russell each tacked on 12 in the win.
Macary has scored 54 points and Jackson has 52 points through seven games.
“It has really helped us to develop the younger talent on this team,” Cheney said. “When they get into those tight moments in the big games they can step it up and give us their best effort.”
Naugatuck is set for a couple big games against fellow NVL contenders Watertown (6-1) tonight and St. Paul (5-2) on Tuesday before visiting Wolcott (2-5) next Friday.
As the season continues to heat up, Cheney knows she has a deep roster she can call upon in big moments.
“We have some girls who can be key players for us down the stretch,” Cheney said. “The hard part is getting everyone the minutes that they have worked hard for.”