Unselfish play sparks fast start for ’Hounds

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NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys basketball team has busted out of the gate this season with a perfect mark, but head coach Mike Wilson knows there’s still a lot of games left to play.

“We are off to a fast start but we haven’t achieved anything yet,” Wilson said. “We can’t buy into any of that hype. We’ve had our hearts broken too many times before to fall for that.”

Naugatuck improved to 6-0 with wins over Wilby and Watertown last week.

The Greyhounds topped Wilby, 74-50, Jan. 6 in a contest that Wilson felt his Greyhounds weren’t at the top of their game.

“We made six turnovers in the first two minutes of the game,” Wilson said. “We are just like every other team out there trying to improve each and every day.”

Once the ’Hounds worked out some of the kinks, they began to run the floor with authority and took a 35-23 lead into halftime against the Wildcats.

Ese Onakpoma led the way for Naugy with 26 points. Roberts Sanders had 11 points and Avery Hinnant added 10 points. Sanders and Hinnant have scored in double figures in each of the first five games.

Keywan Garris and Derrick Jagello knocked down six points each. Julaquis Minnifield had five points, and Jay Mezzo and Justin Barth added four points each.

Jagello led Naugatuck with 34 points in the Greyhounds’ 79-50 win over Watertown Jan. 10. Jagello hit six 3-pointers and converted 14 of 15 from the foul line in the game.

Garris had 11 and Sanders added seven against Watertown.

Naugatuck gained a lot of attention in the early going this season by winning the New Britain Holiday Tournament in late December against a couple of heavy hitters.

Naugatuck knocked off Weaver, 77-72, in the tournament opener, then beat New Britain, 78-75, in overtime in the championship game.

Sanders scored a game-high 26 points against Weaver and had 17 points versus New Britain to earn Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament. Hinnant led the Greyhounds with 26 points against New Britain to also earn a spot on the All-Tournament team.

“Anytime we go out of conference we are looking to be challenged to make us a better team,” Wilson said. “Those (Weaver and New Britain) are a couple of big boys over there, and it was my first out of conference win in over ten years. What is making it work is this team is so unselfish and on any given night someone else steps up.”

Naugatuck started the new year Jan. 3 with a 73-48 win against Torrington that was over quickly. A 17-7 first quarter lead turned into a 42-17 halftime runaway, as Naugy went on to dispose of the Raiders.

The Greyhounds displayed their unselfish play as four players — Hinnant (16 points), Garris (13 points), Jagello (10 points) and Sanders (10 points) — scored in double figures.

Naugatuck looks to continue its winning against St. Paul on Monday and Wolcott on Wednesday.

As the season progresses, Wilson knows there are tough tests that lie ahead for the Greyhounds.

“Potential is a scary word if it’s not working,” Wilson said. “We better be grinding every day. We still have Holy Cross, Sacred Heart and Crosby out there. … It’s a long season and there is a lot of basketball still to be played.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the article published in the Jan. 16 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on a game played after press time.