Naugy streaking into NVL boys tournamentSingle Classified

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NAUGATUCK — After a slow start to the season, the Naugatuck boys basketball team has soared to the top of the Naugatuck Valley League rankings.

Since starting 2-4, the Greyhounds (14-5 overall, 14-3 NVL) have won 12 of their last 13 games, including nine in a row heading into the regular season finale Tuesday versus Crosby.

That streak put Naugatuck into a tie for the No. 2 seed in the NVL with one game left before the league tournament.

“It has been a pleasure to watch,” Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson said of his team’s streak. “The kids are buying into what we’re teaching. The way we have been sharing the basketball, it is definitely fun to watch.”

Naugatuck’s ninth straight win came Feb. 11 at Kennedy, a 74-56 victory. Derrick Jagello led the way with 21 points, including four 3-pointers. Jean Lukau and Ese Onakpoma each chipped in with 12 points.

That game followed a home victory against St. Paul on Feb. 8. The ‘Hounds completed a season sweep of the Falcons with a 61-54 win. Andrew Robertson was Naugy’s seventh different leading scorer in a game this season as he put up 18 against St. Paul. Avery Hinnant added 10 points.

Naugy’s only loss in 2019 came at home to Wolcott. Holding an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Naugy dropped the game, 57-53. However, the ‘Hounds avenged that loss with a win at Wolcott about a month later.

Wilson said that the game after the Wolcott loss — a 66-64 come-from-behind win against Ansonia — might have led to the team’s turnaround.

“Our game at Ansonia earlier this year was huge for us,” Wilson said. “We were down ten in the fourth quarter; we were able to come back and win that game. That was a turning point for us.”

The Greyhounds have not lost since that win at Ansonia on Jan. 16.

Naugatuck and Torrington hold identical NVL records. While Naugatuck ends the season with Crosby, Torrington has to play undefeated Sacred Heart. Naugy can only drop as far down as the No. 3 seed for the NVL tourney, but a win against Crosby and a Torrington loss would secure the No. 2 seed.

The tournament tips off Saturday with the quarterfinal round. Semifinals and the championship game set for next week. All games are at Wilby High School in Waterbury.

Wilson said getting a win against the Bulldogs on the road won’t be easy.

“I am not sure if I ever won a game at Crosby,” Wilson said. “That is a tough environment. I think we might have to scratch and claw to get out of there with a win.”

This season has been Naugatuck’s most successful since 2015, when the Greyhounds finished the regular season 16-4 and appeared in the state championship game. Wilson, however, does not like to compare this year’s team to the 2015 Greyhounds.

“There are some similarities sure, but I don’t like to make those comparisons,” Wilson said. “I don’t think it is fair to either team. In 2015, I had senior Dayvon Russell bringing up the ball.  This year I have Ese (Onakpoma), who is a freshman, bringing up the ball. I also don’t want to set the expectations that high for this team because of how young we are.”

After the NVL tournament, Naugatuck will turn its attention to the Division III state tourney. The Greyhounds hold the No. 7 seed in Division III. The tournament begins March 1 with play-down games followed by the first round on March 5.