NAUGATUCK — The Edward Mariano Gymnasium at Naugatuck High was a packed and rocking house Tuesday night. Former Naugy athletes, youth league basketball coaches, everyone came out to watch No. 7 Naugatuck host No. 26 Harding of Bridgeport in the first round of the Class L tournament.
The energy was electric in the gym and those who made their way to the borough caught quite a game.
With 12 seconds left and the Greyhounds trailing 59-58, Jarron Chapman took an inbound pass from James Mesidor and raced coast to coast for the game-winning layup to give Naugy the 60-59 victory.
The Greyhounds (18-4) advanced to the second round of the states and will host No. 10 Wilton (15-6) Thursday at 7 p.m.
There were still six ticks on the clock left for Harding (10-11) after Chapman’s layup, but time ran out on the Presidents and a raucous home crowd spilled onto the court in jubilation.
“We put ourselves on the map now,” said Chapman, who finished with a team-high 22 points.
It was a back-and-forth, up-and-down game the whole night, and the ending wouldn’t be any different.
With 21 seconds left, Chapman stepped to the charity stripe — a place were he struggled on the night going 8-of-22 — with the game tied at 57-57. Chapman hit one of two from the line to give Naugy a 58-57 advantage that would last only nine seconds.
Harding pushed the ball up the floor and T.J. Killings (22 points) scored to give the Presidents a 59-58 lead with 12 seconds left, setting the stage for Chapman’s heroics.
In the beginning, it looked like Naugy was going to let the game slip away from them early. Harding held a 23-14 lead after a quick scoring burst to end the first quarter.
However, Harding was in serious foul trouble. Naugy was in the bonus before the first quarter even reached the halfway point, which was a big help for the ‘Hounds entering the second quarter.
The Greyhounds started off the second quarter on a 9-2 run and found themselves down by only two, 34-32, at halftime.
Harding’s foul trouble helped out the ‘Hounds, as they went to the line 18 times. Naugy could only manage to make nine of those shots though, with Dayvon Russell accounting for eight of those.
The whole second half was a great fight.
Naugy did a great job of neutralizing Killings, who scored 16 in the first half, after the break and held him to just two points in the third.
Ties and lead changes were the norm in the third quarter, but Harding was still leading, 47-46, going in to the fourth.
The fourth quarter told basically the same story. Harding was once again in foul trouble and the ‘Hounds were in the double bonus for the final 8 minutes. But much like the first half, Naugy could not convert from the foul line and the shooting woes continued.
Russell made just one of his first seven field goal attempts and finished 3-of-11 from the field, on top of having six turnovers.
But both Chapman and Russell were clutch at pivotal moments in the game.
Down 53-52 in the fourth quarter, Russell caught a pass and spotted up for a 3 and sank it for his first make from behind the arc, giving the ‘Hounds a two-point lead.
And, of course, Chapman hit the biggest shot of the game.
Wilson was very emotional after the big win and extremely proud of his team.
“I am just proud of these boys tonight,” Wilson said. “We have been on a bumpy road this season, but this bumpy road has led us to success.”
Russell finished with 17 points, including ten free throws. C.J. Wall added 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, with 12 of those points coming in the first half.
Chapman, Russell, and Wall had plenty of help from their supporting cast.
Jason Bradley only finished with one point, but he was arguably the defensive MVP for Naugy, blocking two shots and drawing three charges.
Fejiro Onakpoma, who fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, did not score any points but racked up 11 rebounds, the only Greyhound with 10 or more rebounds on the night.
Chapman said that each person on this team works together by doing their part, and Fejiro certainly did his part.
“Fejiro was a really good big man tonight,” said Chapman, who racked up five boards of his own. “He did what he was supposed to do. Get in there, bang someone around, and get boards.”
Everyone contributed, but Wilson said a big reason Naugy won was because of what they learned from the loss to Crosby in the semifinals of the NVL tournament. That lesson was that each second of the game has the same level of importance.
“We watched that Crosby game on film and I think the guys learned a lot,” Wilson said. “Our understanding of how important every rebound, every possession and how a game can turn around.”
It was another close game that Naugy pulled away from with a W, and Chapman looked determined when he explained what kind of mission the Greyhounds are on.
“We are on a mission to Mohegan.”
That mission continued on Thursday night against Wilton.
A video from the game is available on the Republican-American’s Hoop Zone blog.