BY KEN MORSE
The Naugy boys closed out the first half of the basketball season as one of the top-tier teams in the league, posting a 7-3 mark.
There may be quite a bit of difference between the Greyhounds and the top teams in the league – WCA, Wilby, Kennedy and Holy Cross – but nontheless there is Naugy in the mix. The Greyhounds began the second half of the season with a 65-61 home win over Wolcott on Jan. 17. Dillon Gray led the way with 18 points and Jalen Francis added 15. Khaden Moore checked in with 14 points and Eliezer Pena chipped in with 11 points.
The Greyhounds have methodically built a solid lineup comprised of lockdown defenders, go to the rim rebounders and a touch of outside shooting to keep opponents honest.
“Everyone game out there is experience for these guys right now,” said Naugy coach Mike Wilson. “Playing in the close games, it’s an opportunity for them to feel the heat and that’s good for their growth as a team.”
One of the biggest surprises is the emergence of junior Jalen Francis, who has led the team in scoring over half of the games while dbusting the 20-point mark four times with a season-high of 27.
“Jalen has been playing really well for us this year,” added Wilson. “We have been getting solid contributions from a lot of guys. We haven’t had a full lineup very often so it’s an opportunity to get into that next man up mentality and that helps to develop team depth.”
Seniors Dillon Gray, Tom Barry and Vedley Valmyr have shown the type of leadership needed to forge ahead and then there is senior Michael Deitelbaum who may not be the best basketball player out there but is definitely the toughest athlete out there.
“I would like to see us go nine or 10 deep and develop a consistent rotation,” said Wilson. “We have some big boys on the glass and they are playing hard. Mike may not be a basketball player in the true sense but he is tough as nails and makes a difference when he’s out there.”
Another surprise this season has been the quick development of freshman point guard Eliezer Pena. His full speed drives and quick passing skills have put a spark in the offense, and his 12 points per game have been quite noticeable.
Francis is averaging 17 points per game (175 total). Dillon Gray (13.5) and Moore (10.5) give the Hounds four double-digit scorers. Senior Jabari Grey just got back in the lineup and tallied 13 points in the 57-53 win over Amistad.
Naugatuck will quickly find out where they stand among the top tier as they close out the month with some stiff competition. The Hounds were scheduled to host Holy Cross on Tuesday and Kennedy on Jan. 31.
“We are getting ready to be thrown at the gauntlet,” said Wilson. “We threw our freshman Pena to the wolves and he has done a really good job for us. We will play our game and see where that shakes out.”
BY KEN MORSE