NAUGATUCK — Going into the season with a new head coach, Gail Cheney, the most immediate goal for the Naugatuck girls basketball team was to qualify for the postseason. That goal was achieved two weeks ago, and since then Naugatuck has stepped to the forefront as one of the teams to beat in the Naugatuck Valley League.
Naugatuck improved to 11-3 last Friday with a 48-30 win over Derby, the Greyhounds’ third straight win and seventh in their last eight games.
Naugatuck’s three losses through Tuesday came against Sacred Heart (12-3), St. Paul (12-2) and Seymour (10-4). A potential match up with Holy Cross (13-2) will have to wait until the NVL tournament, since Naugatuck doesn’t play the Crusaders in the regular season.
Naugatuck made quick work of Derby in a rather easy 18-point win. Shannon Burns continues to have the hot hand and knocked down 14 points.
Hailey Deitelbaum had her usual all-around performance through with 12 points, and Alexis Woods was a presence in the paint and had 11 points.
A new attitude and a new philosophy came with the new coach, but there were still some skeletons in the closet that needed to be eradicated.
The Greyhounds got their opportunity last Wednesday against Woodland, a team they lost to seven straight times. In fact, the last time Naugatuck pulled out a win against the Hawks was in 2013.
The Greyhounds dragged that skeleton out of the closet and stomped on it to the tune of a 52-41 win at the Hawks Nest in Beacon Falls.
As usual, at least this season, the Greyhounds put nine players in the scoring column led by Burns (12 points) and her four three-pointers.
“A big part of our success is coach really building up our confidence,” Burns said. “She believes in us just as much as we do and it has really made a difference.”
Bridget Rosikiewicz ripped down 16 rebounds and added eight points against Woodland.
“Hailey (Deitelbaum) and I just have a camaraderie working on the boards together, and once we get going, it sets up our defense to shut teams down,” Rosikiewicz said.
“Shannon has really gained a lot of confidence in her shot,” Cheney said. “It was just a matter of adjusting her footwork. Bridget and Hailey have really been able to take over the rebounds and that has made a huge difference.”
Alyana Sosa and Alyssa McNeil added seven points each, and Deitelbaum had all-around game with seven points, seven rebounds and six steals.
Woodland proved to be a handful early on and built a 15-9 first quarter lead. The Hawks went into halftime up 25-21 halftime.
The Greyhounds shifted gears in the second half and began to race up and down the floor at will. They also created 13 Woodland turnovers in the third quarter.
By the time the smoke had cleared, Naugatuck headed into the final quarter with a 42-33 lead. The Hawks expended a lot of energy to climb back within five points with five minutes to play.
That’s when the diversity of Naugatuck kicked in.
First it was Rosikiewicz in the paint, then Sosa hit a pull up jumper out on the wing, and Deitelbaum took it coast-to-coast on a steal, and the lead grew to double digits again.
“I will admit Woodland wanted it more than we did and that was probably the worst half we played all season,” Cheney said. “I’m excited for these kids at where they are at, but like I said, it’s all about who shows up on any given night.”
Naugatuck will play Morgan on Thursday and head to Ansonia on Friday. Next week, Naugatuck will host Woodland on Tuesday for a rematch.