BY KYLE BRENNAN
NAUGATUCK — Nobody expected Naugatuck’s season to end this early, but the Greyhounds found out what happens on an off night in the Division I boys basketball state tournament.
No. 16-seeded Wilbur Cross’ tough defense and late-game run helped the Governors pull a 58-50 upset over the top-seeded and previously undefeated Greyhounds before a nearly sold out Ed Mariano Gymnasium in the Division I second round on Thursday night.
“If we played them on another night, maybe the ball goes a little different for us. That’s just basketball,” Naugatuck coach Mike Wilson said. “It was a Division I heavyweight fight. There are no lightweight fights when you get to this situation. We knew that coming in. We had our opportunities to win the game.”
Naugatuck (23-1) clawed ahead for a 44-41 lead with 5:58 left in the fourth quarter – the Greyhounds’ biggest lead since the first quarter – but Wilbur Cross (14-9) mounted a 15-3 run over the next 5:20 to pull away and stun the packed house.
“They were really good with securing the basketball at the end of the game,” said Wilson, whose team had only played two games with single-digit margins throughout the season. “Their familiarity with that situation helped them. I don’t think our familiarity in tight games [was there].
“I think we got a little tight,” he continued. “Basketball’s a weird sport. The ball wasn’t bouncing our way sometimes; it was bouncing off our hands. We missed a couple of layups. It’s natural. The kids were excited. I don’t think we seized the moment when we went up a couple of points in the fourth quarter.”
It was a surprisingly early exit for the Greyhounds, who have won two of the last three Naugatuck Valley League championships and were playing in their first state tournament since 2019. The what-could-have-been questions from the last two canceled postseasons will always linger, as will those from this defeat.
But Wilson said part of his postgame remarks in an emotional locker room focused on the team’s accomplishments.
“My job is to make sure they know that they didn’t let anyone down,” Wilson said. “When you have that pressure all year of being undefeated, the boys have that letdown feeling. I don’t want them to ever have that feeling because it’s not fair. You win [or] you lose, [but] you wake up the next day the same man. It doesn’t define your character.”
In their final career games, Ese Onakpoma (17 points) and Avery Hinnant (12 points) were the only scorers in double figures for Naugy, which struggled from the perimeter and were in foul trouble all night.
Fellow seniors Jayshawn Lindsay (nine points), Evan Swanson (five), Aiden Robertson (four) and Perris Sayler also ended their careers.
“It hurts. There were a lot of tears in the locker room,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of love for those boys the last four years. Those locker rooms aren’t easy to speak to. There are no words I can put on that situation to make it better, but our bond doesn’t change at all.”
Greyhounds ousted in Division I second round stunner
BY KYLE BRENNAN