By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — The saying goes, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
In this strange, pandemic-shortened winter high school sports season, the Naugatuck girls basketball team ended where it started.
Naugatuck struggled in the first quarter at Torrington in a 49-34 loss in February to open the season. The Greyhounds found themselves back in Torrington in the opening round of the Naugatuck Valley League tournament on March 20, and another rough first quarter led to an early exit and a 31-19 loss.
Naugatuck trailed 12-0 after the first quarter but played Torrington even the rest of the way. Kaylee Jackson led Naugatuck (5-8) with nine points.
“We were blessed to have a season at all,” Naugatuck first-year head coach Adam Purcaro said. “It gave us a chance to learn about one another. We learned some tough lessons but we stuck together and never quit.”
Starts and finishes did not define the season for the Greyhounds. It was defined by how they responded to lopsided losses to Torrington, St. Paul and Ansonia.
In the regular-season rematch with Torrington, Naugy battled back from a 22-8 deficit and missed a shot at the buzzer in a 32-30 loss.
The Greyhounds were outplayed by St. Paul in a 54-27 loss on March 3. But the rematch less than a week later was a barnburner, with the Falcons edging out Naugy 30-26.
Two weeks after getting run out of the gym by Ansonia in a 51-29 loss on March 9, Naugatuck responded by earning a 52-43 win over the Chargers — a game that saw four Greyhounds score double figures.
On paper it may not have been much to write home about. No one would have flinched if the rematches played out in the same fashion as the first games, but the Greyhounds were having none of it. Driven by the passion and resolve of Purcaro, they forged ahead with a sense of confidence.
If you think that progress this season was deferred, you would be wrong.
“We got knocked down at times,” Purcaro said. “But winners get back up and that’s what we did in a few games. Outside of those three games, we were in every game. What impressed me the most was how good they were at absorbing and watching the films to get better the next time out.”
Purcaro will have basically his entire team back in his second season at the helm.
Jackson led the team in scoring six times this season, compiling a team-high 118 points.
The Greyhounds weren’t reliant on one scorer, though. Kendall Allen (109 points) led the team in scoring four times. Lauryn Ramalho (74 points) and Aryn Bomberry (68 points) each did it twice, and Julianna Magalhaes (50 points) led the team once.
Naugatuck also got contributions from Saige Winslow (45 points) and Sophia DeFilippo, who played an integral role as a tough defender.
Purcaro said he will have to focus on the offense heading into next season, but he feels the future is bright.
“I need to do a better job having us prepared offensively to be successful,” Purcaro said. “But I’m excited at where this team is heading. They have passion and desire, and those qualities alone will make us a contender next season.”