WATERBURY — Naugatuck took on Kennedy Tuesday night in a game that had spectators, coaches, and players alike on their toes until the bitter end.
After the sweltering emotional heat of the game cooled, the Hounds found themselves topped by a mere basket, 60-58.
“[This loss] was frustrating because we were right there,” Naugatuck coach Mike Wilson said, alluding to a number of questionable calls made by the referees, most notably in the last 45 seconds of the game, which put Naugatuck at a sizable disadvantage.
“I mean, I don’t feel we made plays that decided that game,” Wilson said. “I think it got taken out of our hands.”
Kennedy’s Brian Overton scored the game-winner on a layup with 20 seconds left. Nolan Kinne’s potential game-tying shot was off by less than an inch after he and Mick Pernell made one last drive at the end of the fourth quarter.
As the game began, it looked like Kennedy would make quick work of Naugatuck, taking an early, 9-3 lead. But the Greyhounds rallied with intensity that the Eagles found troubling to equal.
Naugatuck’s communication and ability to wrestle away defensive rebounds, and get the ball back down the court had Naugatuck up, 23-15, by the end of the first period. Mick Pernell scored nine of his 16 points in the quarter.
The second quarter saw a much more aggressive Kennedy team, both offensively and especially defensively, holding Pernell to only three points. Naugatuck maintained its defensive strength under the hoop late into the half.
Tied at 30 with 2:27 left in the half, Kennedy began to pull ahead, and headed into the locker room ahead, 37-34.
The Hounds took a 46-45 lead late in the third quarter. Central to Naugy’s success in the quarter was Kinne’s defensive athleticism, highlighted by his diving steal with only 1:07 left on the clock. But the Eagles would end the period with a 47-46 lead after Gabriel Cabrera’s buzzer-beating lay-up.
The Eagles turned up the heat in the fourth quarter.
Naugatuck’s Achilles heel in the fourth quarter was Kennedy’s pressure defense. The Eagles put it on early in the period and the coverage was too strong for the Greyhounds to get their momentum flowing. This, coupled with the dubious officiating, made a Naugy comeback difficult.
Naugy’s Brandon Kuczenski and Kennedy’s Trevon Seymore led their teams with 19 points each. Jordan Bayon added 14 points for Kennedy while Brian Overton pitched in 10. Conklin had 11 points on the night for the Hounds.
Wilson praised a Kennedy team he thinks will be a contender for the league title next month.
“They’re a great ballclub,” Wilson said. “They’re a great ballclub, well rounded, and they’re going to be dangerous come tournament time.”
Wilson, though somewhat miffed by the turnout of the game, had nothing but praise for how his players performed on the court.
“[The most positive aspect was] our attitude, our work ethic,” Wilson said. “I mean I have absolutely nothing in the world to be disappointed about. We played as a team defensively, offensively, we improved on our motions—I have nothing in the world that’s negative to talk about.”
With the loss, Naugatuck dropped to 1-13 and will travel to Wolcott on Friday. Wilson hopes the close calls of recent weeks will finally translate into a few wins in the final two-plus weeks of the season.
“We’re right there,” Wilson said. “We’re tasting it. It’s like a carrot dangling in our faces. We just can’t grab it right now.”