Naugatuck win streak ended in OT loss

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BY KEN MORSE

CITIZEN’S NEWS

The Naugatuck boys basketball team has been employing a whole lot of defense and ball control, ripping off four straight wins after an 0-3 start. The loudest noise they have made was a win over Wilby, a team that cranked it up, scoring 90 or more four times this season.

Naugy unleashed a defensive scheme on the undefeated Wildcats in a morale-building 71-67 victory on Jan. 5. The Hounds made quick work of Woodland on Jan. 8 with a 71-55 win.

The Hawks did close to within a basket entering the final quarter until Naugy shifted gears with a 22-8 stanza.

“We are always talking about the big three,” said Naugatuck coach Mike Wilson. “Rebounds, transition and defense. Over the last three or four games we are starting to see some consistency in those areas.”

That consistency was in full view against Woodland as Naugy turned the ball over just two times in each of the first two quarters to build a 10-point halftime advantage. Then with the game on the line, Naugy turned it over just once in the final eight minutes.

In a go-around with Kennedy on Jan. 12, Naugy pulled out to an early lead 18-7 before the Eagles could even get started. The Greyhounds continued to push the defensive buttons while hanging onto the ball in a convincing 73-58 win.

Jalen Francis was lighting it up on the perimeter, knocking down five 3-pointers for a game-high 24 points. Eliezer Pena threw down 16 points, Khaden Moore muscled his way inside for 15 and Derek Strane hit for 13.

“Pena is making small steps forward,” said Wilson. “When he plays out of control it leads to turnovers. I’m no rocket scientist but I keep telling these kids hanging onto possessions and defense wins games. We proved that against Wilby.”

The Greyhounds saw the four-game win streak come to an end in an overtime loss to Torrington, 68-63, on Jan. 17. Naugy struggled on offense in the first half and trailed, 32-22, at halftime.

It was defense that picked up the Greyhounds as they won the third quarter, 27-14, and led by three points, 49-46, going into the final quarter. From that point on it turned into a defensive battle with Torrington tying it up, 56-56, going into the overtime session.

Francis and Moore both dropped 20 points through the cylinder to lead the Greyhounds. Strane added eight points with Nate Gendron and Pena putting down six each.

“Basketball is a game of streaks,” commented Wilson. “Shots come and shots go, but in order to be successful consistently you need two things. Hanging onto the ball once you have possession, and defense. Maintaining possession is really a simple thing. Don’t throw the ball away once you have it. If we can just stay in that mindset I will live with the shots that don’t fall. Those are the streaks of the game that come and go.”

Naugatuck was scheduled to host Watertown on Tuesday. The Hounds are slated to play at Holy Cross on Friday.