By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — After a rather easy win against Torrington to open the season, the Naugatuck boys basketball team received a bit of wake-up call at St. Paul.
St. Paul earned a 70-63 home win over Naugatuck on Feb. 20. The Falcons busted out to a 23-11 lead after the first quarter. Naugy battled back, but couldn’t undue the damage done.
“We kind of got smacked in the face,” Naugatuck head coach Mike Wilson said. “It was a combination of everything. They came out with some zones and I didn’t have us prepared. So that one was on me.”
“It was certainly a learning experience for them, and for me and my coaching staff, as well,” Wilson added.
Ese Onakpoma knocked down 28 points for Naugatuck. Avery Hinnant had 16 points and Julaquis Minnifield had 13 points.
The early-season loss lit a fire under the Greyhounds, who responded with back-to-back resounding wins to improve to 3-1.
Naugy stormed out to a 20-10, first-quarter advantage against Wolcott on Feb. 23 en route to a rather convincing 75-38 victory.
Onakpoma led Naugy with 24 points. Hinnant checked in with 11 points. Minnifield and Evan Swanson had eight points each. Jayshaun Lindsay had six points, Ryan Noble had five points and Grzegorz Lutrzykowski added four.
“That’s the best thing about it,” Wilson said about the loss to St. Paul. “You get another chance to get back out there and fix the things that went wrong. That’s what it’s all about. They say an early-season loss is a good thing, it’s a learning experience.”
“I don’t feel that way at all,” Wilson added. “I never want to lose and I never think it’s a good thing. But it does help you to get back out there and refocus.”
The Greyhounds must have learned their lesson as they were focused when they traveled to Ansonia on Feb. 24.
Naugatuck built a 17-7 lead after the first quarter. The game was well in hand at halftime as Naugy extended its advantage to 33-10.
The Greyhounds never let their foot off the gas and came away with another convincing win, 56-18. Hinnant led the way with 15 points. Onakpoma had 14 points and Minnifield added 12.
“We are positive and are understanding our roles,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot more to this game than putting the ball in the hoop. Sometimes you get better by not what you do with the ball, it’s how you guard the ball, and our defense carried us last year.”
The Greyhounds are set to play their first of two games against perennial powerhouse Sacred Heart on Feb. 27, followed by games against Watertown on March 1 and a rematch with St. Paul on March 3.
“We are excited to be going up against a good Sacred Heart team. We are looking forward to a rematch with St. Paul,” Wilson said. “But outside of that I have never been too keen on preparing for another team. I’m more focused on preparing us for the next game. We are not good enough to be worrying about anyone else. We got enough to worry about with us getting better.”