NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys came out with their Special K offense — extra emphasis on Brandon Kuczenski — running out to an 11-point first-quarter lead last Friday en route to a 60-54 win over Ansonia.
Kuczenski, a senior center, scored 14 of the Greyhounds’ 16 first-period points and finished with a game-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. There are few better in the Naugatuck Valley League when Kuczenski takes a pass in the paint, rolls through the lane and tosses a one-hander off the window.
“The big man really had it going on in that first period,” Ansonia coach Todd Manuel said of Kuczenski. “When we switched up and took our weak-side guard and put him on the inside we were able to slow the big guy down but we were still chasing that lead the rest of the way.”
It was a 6-0 Naugatuck advantage before Ansonia finally got on the board. Tyron Black (team-high 13 points) drove the lane for a bucket with 4 minutes remaining in the first. The ‘Hounds responded with Kuczenski scoring on the next four possessions to build a commanding 14-2 advantage.
“The game plan was to come out and use our height advantage,” Kuczenski said. “We did a good job with that and played some tough defense to take control of the game.”
Ansonia began to make some noise in the second period as it tried to close the gap. Black scored on a put-back and then took off on a coast-to-coast drive to make it a 20-12 game.
The Naugatuck (6-6) bench provided the kind of energy that kept the Chargers in check. Matt Bradley came up with a steal and fired an outlet pass to Brian Coney at the top of the key, from where he found Nate Franklin on the baseline for a layup to put a spark in the Naugy offense.
Ansonia got back to within 24-20 before Mick Pernell (15 points, four steals) stepped back and buried a 3-pointer to start a Greyhounds run. Husani Foote (15 points, six rebounds, four assists) then took off with a steal and threw down a power jam that got the crowd’s attention.
Leading 30-22 at halftime, Naugatuck relied upon Ryne Griesenauer (six rebounds) and Maleek Brooks to give the ‘Hounds a little more defensive presence in the second half as Jerome Love (seven assists, four points) continued to direct the offense.
Tom Majchrzak (11 points), Vinny Constantino (11 points) and Rayshawn Pender (12 points) combined their offense to close the gap for Ansonia but Naugatuck still led, 44-36, heading into the final period.
Any chance of a comeback by the Chargers was quickly erased when Pernell dropped a 3-pointer through the cylinder and Foote followed with another slam to open up a 51-38 lead with 4 minutes to play.
“We played our game in the first half,” Naugatuck coach Mike Wilson said. “I thought our bench gave us the kind of energy that we expect out of them. We knew Ansonia would make a run on us but we kept up our intensity and came away with the win.”
The Greyhounds will host St. Paul on Wednesday before traveling to Derby on Friday.