NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls’ basketball team came in to Tuesday night’s game with a definitive plan and almost ran Watertown right out of the gym. After her squad was outrebounded in its first two games, head coach Jodie Ruccio employed a pressing defense that caused numerous Indians turnovers. Naugatuck never bothered to check the rearview mirror on its way to a convincing, 62-43 win.
Watertown came in full of confidence after defeating Derby last week but was no match for the suffocating pressure defense that caused 19 first-half turnovers and 28 for the game. The Greyhounds, looking for their first win of the season, after starting 0-2 bolted to a 9-2 advantage at the 5:18 mark of the first period and never looked back.
“After the Sacred Heart game, it was obvious we needed to find a few more options besides Jessica Webber,” Naugatuck assistant coach Josh Ruccio said. “The girls worked real hard, and the turnovers created some opportunities to get our offense going. We would have liked to see a few more finishes, but getting everyone involved was the key.”
Watertown may have been aware of Jessica Webber’s presence, but it had no answer for Danielle Charette, who collected a career-high 21 points with seven rebounds and five steals.
Webber, with 14 points and eight assists, was more than willing to dish it off in the paint, and that fueled more than a few Greyhound runs that took over the game.
But the difference in the outcome came by the way of a defense that caused eight turnovers in the first quarter. Naugatuck broke out to a 17-6 advantage on the strength of Charette’s 10 points in the first five minutes.
The Indians came out of a timeout, and Kelly Lewis took the reigns, scoring seven of her 15 points during an 8-2 run that cut the deficit to 19-14, heading into the second period.
Amanda Bugnacki, with 16 points, kept Watertown close and with 5:33 to go in the half, Naugatuck was holding on to a 26-18 advantage.
Alexis Granahan (six points, six steals) caused a few more Watertown turnovers, and Webber went on a tear, scoring on three straight trips down the floor. The senior captain hit a pull-up jumper in the lane, made a spin move around a defender on the baseline and buried a pair at the free throw line to open up a comfortable, 32-18 lead with 3:11 to go.
Julia Longo, whose 15 points included four three-pointers, began to heat up behind the arc, dropping in a triple as the Greyhounds took a commanding, 41-22 lead to the locker room at the break.
“We caused a lot of turnovers with the press, but the real key was Granahan held Watertown’s leading scoring [Jessica Spezzano] to just four points in the game,” Ruccio said.
Another key aspect was that undersized Naugatuck managed to win the battle on the boards at the half, holding a 15-14 advantage, with Renee Augustine (eight rebounds) and Charette (seven rebounds) getting it done.
Longo came out in the third quarter and put Watertown on notice, dropping a pair of threes to open up a 47-24 lead before the Indians responded. Spezzano was being held in check on the scoreboard, but there was no slowing down other aspects of her game, as she ripped down seven rebounds, dished off four assists and came away with four steals.
That inspired play fueled a 10-0 Watertown run to close the gap to 47-34, but that was as close as the Indians would get. Webber went coast-to-coast off a steal and on the free throw after a foul, Charette corralled the rebound and threw in the put-back for a 51-34 advantage heading in to the final period.
“We are always told to look for our shot,” Charette said. “Tonight it clicked for us. It didn’t feel too good starting out 0-2, and we came in here looking to show we are much better than that.”
Melissa Miller, Kristen Myers and Lauren Piroscafo came on in the second half to keep the pressure on Watertown. Amber Kuczenski lent a hand in the paint, hauling away three tough rebounds down the stretch, as Naugatuck continued to pull away by a 62-43 margin.
The Hounds are back in action Friday when they travel to Waterbury to take on Crosby at 7 p.m.