Greyhounds fall in NVLs, gear up for states

Naugatuck’s Avery Hinnant (4) tries to block the shot of Crosby’s Andre Pierre (35) during a quarterfinal game of the NVL boys basketball tournament Feb. 23 at Wilby High School. – JONATHAN WILCOX/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys defeated Crosby for just the second time in the last 18 meetings with the Bulldogs to end the regular season, but couldn’t make it a third time when the pair met in the quarterfinal round of the Naugatuck Valley League tournament.

Naugatuck’s 75-66 win over Crosby on Feb. 19 earned the Greyhounds the No. 2 seed in the NVL tourney and the Iron Division title. It also earned Naugatuck a rematch with No. 7 Crosby to open the league tournament four days later.

This time, it was Crosby that came out on top with a 90-74 win Feb. 23 at Wilby High School.

“We didn’t come ready,” Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson said. “We didn’t play our game in the first couple of minutes and dug ourselves a whole.”

Crosby (14-8) jumped out to an 18-2 lead and led 23-10 after the first quarter. The Greyhounds (15-6) cut the lead to six with 5:15 left in the third and to eight with 4:42 left in the fourth, but couldn’t close the gap.

“We got down 18-2 and never recovered,” Wilson said. “We showed character and fought back, but against a good team like that you can’t afford to start slow.”

John Lukau led the ‘Hounds with a game-high 27 points. Gawayne Fisher scored 16 points and Derrick Jagello added 12 points for Naugatuck.

Lukau, who averages 17.8 points per game, was named to the All-NVL team. Freshman center Avery Hinnant was named to the All-Iron Division team.

Naugatuck’s John Lukau (5) looks to pass over Crosby’s William Spears (12) during a quarterfinal game of the NVL boys basketball tournament Feb. 23 at Wilby High School. – JONATHAN WILCOX/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Wilson said the loss is a lesson for the Greyhounds as they head into the Division III state tournament.

“We need to come out and play our game, especially at this time of the year,” he said. “Two minutes can end a ball game when you get into the tournament. You have to stay mentally tough on every possession.”

Naugatuck is ranked No. 6 in the Division III state tournament and earned a bye in the first round. The Greyhounds will host a second-round game on Thursday against the winner of the first-round game between No. 11 Newtown (14-6) and No. 22 Capital Prep (8-12).

Woodland starts play in Division IV: The Woodland boys won four of their last five games to earn a spot in the Division IV tournament.

The Hawks (8-12) are seeded 27th and will play at No. 6 Ellington (16-4) on Tuesday in the first round. The game was scheduled for Monday but postponed due to the snow storm.