WATERBURY — For almost three quarters, the Naugatuck boys stayed with higher-seeded Watertown. Then the game got away.
No. 3 Watertown defeated No. 6 Naugatuck, 71-62, in a Naugatuck Valley League quarterfinal game last Saturday afternoon at Wilby High School.
Gabe Pulliam scored a game-high 24 points for Naugy, which trailed by five at the half and kept the game close until the end of the third quarter. Watertown exploded with a 13-5 run to increase its lead to 14 during a four-minute stretch.
Naugy never recovered.
“It’s frustrating when you’re chasing 12 to start the fourth,” Naugy head coach Mike Wilson said. “In games like this you have to keep the game close at all times.”
Husani Foote scored two of his 18 points on a layup to cut Naugy’s deficit to 44-38 with 3:25 left in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, Foote fouled Anthony Chacho from 3-point range.
Chacho hit one of three free throws — one of the game’s deciding factors. The Indians hit 14 of 31 free throws, while Naugy made five of 10 in the game.
Watertown’s Chaz Oates, who scored 16 points, followed on the Indians’ next time down court with a bucket. The lead grew to nine for Watertown.
Tom O’Brien hit one of two free throws to increase the margin to 10.
Pulliam drained a 3 from the left arc to cut the deficit to seven. Ten seconds later, Jonathan Mitchell hit a 3 to restore the double-figure lead.
Pulliam scored in the paint before Watertown delivered the knockout punch. On the next Watertown possession, Eddie Hill (24 points) hit a baseline jumper, then Hill blocked a Pulliam shot in the lane seconds later.
“He’s got range,” Watertown head coach Ed Sakl of Pulliam. “We did a good job of trying to get him into the lane and make him take a tougher shot.”
The defensive stop led to a drive to the hoop by Oates, who hit two free throws to increase the lead to 12.
Hill scored inside to open the fourth quarter to push Watertown’s lead to 57-43, its largest lead to that point in the game. Naugy would get no closer than seven the rest of the game.
Brandon Kuczenski scored nine for Naugy. Despite the loss, the Greyhounds remained upbeat after the game.
“It was all positive in the locker room after the game,” Wilson said. “The states are a new season and we’re going to keep moving on.”
No. 21 Naugatuck is scheduled to play at No. 12 Berlin in the opening round of the Class L tournament on March 5 at 7 p.m.
Wilson said the Greyhounds are a young team that continues to learn.
“I told the guys ‘I’m proud of you,’” Wilson said. “I’ll go anywhere on the road with this team.”