NAUGATUCK — When the Naugatuck middle schools, Hillside and City Hill, merged last year it didn’t take a mathematician to figure out the outcome, as far as the athletic programs were concerned.
The results have been a lesson in the strength in numbers theory. The City Hill boys basketball team recently concluded a 13-0 perfect season, winning the Naugatuck Valley League Middle School championship. It marked the first time in eight years a non-city school brought home the title.
Going into the season, head coach Ron Plasky knew there would be a transition period. Anytime two separate units merge to form a new entity, growing pains are about to ensue.
However, the Cyclones came into the season locked and loaded as the two former school teams came in boasting a five-member seventh-grade class of players that were more than ready to step up and take a leadership role as eighth-graders.
How does the strength in numbers theory equate to a successful season? The Cyclones burned the nets for a head-shaking 67.8 points per game average and broke the 70-point barrier seven times while topping the 80-point mark on three occasions.
It wasn’t that City Hill was looking to pile it on, as leading scorer Maleek Brooks only averaged 10.4 points per game. It was the seven other players who broke the seven point-per-game mark that soared the Cyclones to new limits.
“There was hardly a transition,” said Plasky. “I had five returning players from Hillside and two were starters, and five returning players from City Hill with two starters back. The rest was easy. The hardest part of the job was finding minutes for all of the players I had coming back.”
Plasky said the transition wasn’t that difficult because the kids have known each other for years.
“These kids have been friends most of their life, playing in Little League, YMCA, soccer and Pop Warner,” Plasky said. “It’s not like they didn’t know each other. Once they all learned my philosophy on the court we focused on becoming one team to represent the town of Naugatuck.”
The Cyclones began the season in staggering fashion as they blasted Ansonia by a convincing, 86-18 margin. Matt Grillo led the way with 18 points and C.J. Wall threw down 13 to pace City Hill.
Bryan Coney and Will Paul added eight points each with Sean Kennedy chipping in with seven. Dan Guerrero and Josh Aviles contributed six points each in the season-opening romp.
Game two was much of the same with City Hill unloading on Seymour by a 67-19 count. Wall led the way with 12 points followed Coney with eight and Jason Bradley with six.
It wasn’t until the fourth game of the season that the Cyclones felt pressure from the opposition when City Hill took on North End of Waterbury.
However, the defense that allowed just over 31 points per game came to the rescue down the stretch as City Hill hung on to a 59-51 victory. Bradley led the way with 16 points with Brooks adding 13 points to the damage.
The Cyclones were in another close one, eluding West Side of Waterbury, 36-30. Brooks led the way, scoring nine points with Aviles and Coney each chipping in with seven.
City Hill needed a statement game and it got that the next time on the court in an 83-41 mauling of Seymour. Bradley had a game-high 13 points with Paul and Dayvon Russell adding 12 each.
Tyler Saad’s nine points and Ricky DeJesus’ six led the potent attack off the bench that held the lead from start to finish.
The Cyclones faced off with neighboring Long River Middle School and pulled off another convincing, 74-21 win to remain undefeated.
Aviles led the scoring with 13 points, while Brooks had nine and Paul Russell added eight. Scott Millett and Coney each threw down six.
City Hill registered its second-highest scoring output of the season in an 85-23 win over Swift of Watertown. For the fifth time, City Hill blistered the net with all 15 players breaking into the scoring column.
Dayvon Russell led the team with 13 points with Wall adding 10. The Cyclones showed their overall depth with Dashon Russell’s six points and Kyle Pyshna’s four adding to the offensive output.
It was a total team effort that gave the Cyclones the NVL Middle School title, including practice players Patrick Hughes and Kyle Torok and team managers Brody Hale and Devan Aviles.
“We certainly achieved our team goal,” Plasky said, “and that was to get these kids ready for the next step and that is to play high school basketball.”