NAUGATUCK — After the Naugatuck boys fended off a furious late rally by Newtown in the waning minutes of their Division III second-round game last Thursday, Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson concisely summed up the meaning of the Greyhounds’ 66-60 win.
“I’m 38 years old, and these kids may not understand you don’t reach the quarterfinals very often,” Wilson said.
Wilson was spot on. The Greyhounds finished as Class L runner-up in 2015. But before that run to the championship game, Naugatuck last reached the quarterfinals when Wilson was in a Naugatuck uniform in 1999.
“We made it to the quarterfinals in my junior and senior year,” Wilson said.
The No. 6-seeded Greyhounds (16-6) seemed to be well on their way to the quarterfinals as they entered the fourth quarter holding a 55-40 advantage over No. 11 Newtown (15-8).
And when Avery Hinnant’s thunderous dunk with 3:15 to go put Naugy up 64-49 and got the Greyhounds’ fans on their feet, it appeared that Newtown’s chances had slipped away.
However, after turning the ball over just twice in the first half, Newtown turned up the pressure and Naugy began to have trouble maintaining possession. The Nighthawks forced 12 fourth-quarter turnovers and stormed back to cut Naugatuck’s lead to 64-60 with under a minute to play.
With 12 seconds to go, Andrew Robertson (9 points) battled for a rebound and threw in a put-back to silence the Newtown fans and give Naugy a 66-60 victory.
“I’m proud of how my guys hung in there. It was a battle but that’s what you need to expect in the state tournament and we showed up,” Wilson said.
Naugatuck advanced to face No. 3 Farmington (19-4) on the road Monday in the quarterfinals. The Indians made it to the semifinals of the Central Connecticut Conference, where they lost to East Catholic, the No. 1 seed in the Division I tournament.
Farmington defeated No. 19 Staples, 74-51, in the second round to set up the game with Naugatuck. A win over Farmington will put Naugatuck into the semifinals on Wednesday.
Naugatuck opened the game against Newtown with an offensive flurry, hitting on six 3-pointers.
John Lukau, who hit on seven 3s for the night en route to a game-high 33 points, scored 10 points in the first quarter. Derrick Jagello (9 points, 10 rebounds) hit on three 3-pointers in the quarter to give Naugy 26-19 advantage after the first quarter.
Gawayne Fisher (6 points) opened the second quarter with a pair of baseline drives as the lead grew to double digits. Lukau scored nine in the second, and the Greyhounds took a 44-33 lead into halftime.
Lukau kept Naugatuck out in front by scoring all 11 of the team’s points in the third quarter to set the stage for a furious fourth as the Greyhounds held on for the win.