BEACON FALLS — Little did the Naugatuck boys know that a comfortable 14-point lead against Woodland in the fourth quarter would require late-game heroics to pull out a win.
Woodland staged a dramatic comeback in the final seven minutes, only to be upstaged by Husani Foote’s catch-and-shoot basket at the buzzer to give the Greyhounds a heart-pounding, 52-50 victory last Friday night. The result put both teams at 5-5 overall.
Naugy’s Mick Pernell and Woodland’s Ryan Angeloszek led all scorers with 18 each.
“It’s a typical NVL game,” Naugy coach Mike Wilson said. “It’s always going to be a war.”
Foote’s game-winning bucket capped a wild fourth quarter. Naugy ran out to a 14-point lead after Foote sent home a fast-break dunk with 7:02 remaining in the game.
The Hawks chipped away from there. After struggling most of the game from long range, Woodland found its stroke.
“The assistant coaches said that we needed to start facing up and shooting with some confidence, and I don’t think we had that confidence in the first half,” Woodland coach Tom Hunt said.
Billy Alfiere (12 points) and Angeloszek drained back-to-back 3s to cut the deficit to eight with 4:30 left. Tanner Kingsley’s (10 points) layup and Alfiere’s putback trimmed the Greyhounds’ lead to four with 2:10 remaining.
The last two minutes was pulsating basketball before an energized crowd. Woodland’s David Uhl’s open 3-point attempt circled the rim and missed with 1:24 left. The teams traded turnovers on the next two possessions.
Woodland, now forced to foul, put Gabe Pulliam at the line. He smoothly hit both attempts of a one-and-one, and increased Naugy’s lead to 50-44 with 44.3 seconds left.
Angeloszek made things more interesting and banked in a 3-pointer over the stretched arm of Foote with 29.9 seconds left to make the score 50-47.
Pulliam missed the front end of a one-and-one and gave Woodland one more possession to tie. Angeloszek hit another 3 to tie the game with 13 seconds left, bringing the crowd to its feet.
“I tip my cap to Woodland,” Wilson said. “They fought the whole way through and gave themselves a chance.”
On the ensuing possession, the ball was knocked out of bounds under the Naugy hoop with one second left. The Greyhounds had time for one more shot.
Foote broke into the paint, caught a pass from Adam Neveski and buried a shot from 10 feet out to give Naugy the win.
“Down 14 in the last quarter to come all the way back,” Hunt said. “I wouldn’t trade these guys for anything. There’s not a team in this league that has more heart and believes what’s on the front of their jerseys.”
The Greyhounds doubled a 27-21 halftime lead to a 12 thanks in part to Foote, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half. Brandon Kuczenski (12 points) beat the clock at the end of the third quarter to give Naugy a 43-31 edge.
Naugatuck took the lead in the second quarter with four 3-pointers by Pernell. He hit six 3s in the game.
“Mick has been hot the last couple of games and he’s really understanding that he’s probably the best shooter in the league if he’s one-two with his feet and his strokes,” Wilson said.
The lead built on Pernell’s hot shooting wasn’t enough. Woodland refused to quit, but the ‘Hounds were able to hold on.
“Yeah, we let a 14-point lead slip away,” Wilson said. “But in the same breath, we responded and, like I told the boys, a win is a win. This is beautiful for us because we haven’t won a tight one like this in a while. Every time we’re in a tight game it feels like we’re on the other end.”
After a meeting with Watertown on tonight, Naugy will visit Ansonia on Friday night before traveling to St. Paul on Tuesday. For Woodland, it was set to visit Holy Cross on Wednesday before hosting Sacred Heart on Friday and visiting Kennedy on Tuesday.