NAUGATUCK — The ball is in the Naugatuck boys basketball team’s court as far as qualifying for the postseason. With less than a week to play in the regular season, the Greyhounds are still in search of the eighth win that would get them into the state tournament.
The ‘Hounds had an opportunity to wrap up the berth Monday when they traveled to Torrington, but Naugy had one of its lowest scoring outputs of the season in a 69-40 loss to the Red Raiders.
The Greyhounds were riding a high after a 57-53 overtime win at Wilby on Feb. 10 when Naugatuck faced a steep test against Sacred Heart two days later. The ‘Hounds fell to the Hearts by a 69-50 margin and were looking to get back in the win column against Torrington.
Naugy battled the Raiders and trailed 15-11 heading into the second period. Then the offense struggled as Torrington piled on a 17-7 advantage to take a solid 32-18 lead at the half.
The ‘Hounds put up just 22 points after the break as Torrington closed it out with a 37-point second half to account for the 69-40 final margin. Zak Mancini collected 18 points and Mitch Zagrodnik added 16 points to lead the Raiders.
C.J. Wall led Naugy (7-10) with 13 points and Dayvon Russell threw down 11 points. Dashon Russell checked in with five points but no other Greyhound scored more than a basket.
“We just couldn’t seem to solve the top two guys for Torrington,” Naugatuck senior captain Ryne Griesenauer said. “Torrington did a good job playing solid team defense and just shut us down. They are a big team and controlled the rebounds. We weren’t able to get more than one look at the basket and a lot of our shots just weren’t falling. We like to get into a transition game to spark our offense but defensively we just didn’t stop them.”
Naugatuck will get another shot at Torrington at home Thursday, after the game was postponed from Wednesday. The ‘Hounds will have two more opportunities to qualify for the states following the rematch against the Red Raiders and both will be on their own home court.
The Greyhounds will host Holy Cross on Friday and try to redeem themselves from an earlier 41-28 loss to the Crusaders. Naugatuck will need to establish an inside presence with Jordan Booker, Bryan Coney and Jou’rdan Hopkins giving Griesenauer some back up in the paint. Jason Bradley and Maleek Brooks will need to help Dayvon Russell beat the press.
“We know what is at stake,” Griesenauer said. “We are going to come out hungry and to be on our own home court is going to give us a little extra energy. We just need to get back to basics. We can’t play outside of ourselves. It’s not going to take anyone player to get this done its going to take us playing team basketball. We need to play as a team. We win one game and we are in the states. We win two games and we can make the NVLs.”
Naugatuck will conclude the regular season Tuesday at home when they host the Naugatuck Valley League defending champion Crosby Bulldogs.
“It’s up to us,” Griesenauer said. “The ball is in our court. We just need to relax and not get stressed out. If we play our game and play as a team we will get this done.”