The Greyhounds finished out the regular season on Tuesday getting past Torrington by a slim 51-47 margin improving to 11-9 on the year. Next up for Naugatuck is likely a matchup versus Watertown on Saturday in the quarterfinals on the Naugatuck Valley League tournament at Wilby High School in Waterbury.
After qualifying for the state tournament earlier in the season, the ‘Hounds turned their attention to making the NVL tournament.
“That was our goal coming into the season,” Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson said. “We made the states and now we are preparing to play on Saturday in the NVL tournament. It’s all a plus from here on out. But in my mind we have the potential to take this as far as we want to.”
Two solid wins over Sacred Heart and Kennedy put them on the right track. But last week Naugatuck struggled against Wilby and Crosby. The Greyhounds lost the lead to the Wildcats down the stretch and then dropped a four-point heartbreaker to Crosby.
These are two teams they will likely face in the NVL tournament so the ‘Hounds are hoping they’ve learned their lessons.
“We will definitely be seeing one if not both of those teams in this tournament,” Wilson said. “We had the chance to be successful in both of those games. But we were 12 of 23 from the foul line against Crosby. That is where games are won or lost.”
Going into Tuesday’s season finale coach Wilson was looking for his team to build up some momentum heading into the tournament.
Gabe Pulliam has been red-hot of late as he broke the 20-point mark for the third straight game leading Naugatuck past Torrington with a game high 22 points. Mick Pernbell threw down 10 points as Brandon Kuczenski and Husani Foote each chipped in nine points.
“Gabe has really started to turn it on lately,” Wilson said. “He is usually the play maker leading the team in assists. But his shots have been falling and he is taking charge out there.”
Wilson added, “We are just looking for someone to step up and be mature as the game heads down the stretch. We are not looking for heroes, just someone to step up and lead the way.”
The Greyhounds broke out to a 19-13 lead over Torrington before the struggles at the free throw line returned. Naugatuck hit on just 9 of 24 from the charity stripe but managed to hang on for the win.
“We have all the tools to be successful,” Wilson said. “We have an inside game with Kuczenski and Foote. We have an outside game with Pulliam and Pernell. We have experience with Adam Neveski, Nolan Kinne, and Zac Mercer. But when you get to this time in the season games are won or lost at the foul line.”
As Naugatuck prepares for the NVLs, Wilson said the Greyhounds mustn’t dwell on the negatives.
“We need to go up there with confidence and stop thinking about all the negatives,” Wilson said. “It really doesn’t matter who the opponent is on Saturday because on any given day any team can bring it. Our job as a team is to bring 32 minutes of mental toughness into the game.”