Naugy not throwing in the towel

Naugatuck’s Ally Mezzo (35) battles for a rebound Jan. 29 versus Derby in Naugatuck. Naugatuck won the game, 40-35. –KEN MORSE
Naugatuck’s Ally Mezzo (35) battles for a rebound Jan. 29 versus Derby in Naugatuck. Naugatuck won the game, 40-35. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — As the season winds down, the Naugatuck girls basketball team pulled slightly closer to the goal of qualifying for the state tournament.

The Greyhounds, winners of two of the last four games, defeated Derby 40-35 last Friday and fell, 51-32, to Watertown on Tuesday.

The Greyhounds (5-11) are three wins ahead of last year’s team and trying to get to the postseason for the third time in the last four years.

That goal took a hit on Tuesday at Watertown. The Greyhounds struggled to get out of the gate falling behind 15-1 in the opening quarter. Naugatuck stayed with Watertown for the remainder of the game, but the Greyhounds weren’t able to overcome the slow start.

Jackie Aronin led Naugy with eight points. Nicole Boucher and Alexis Woods added six points each.

Naugatuck will need three wins over the last four games to qualify for the state tournament with some tough opponents ahead.

The Greyhounds are not throwing in the towel, which was evident in the all-out victory over Derby.

The Raiders fought off an early 7-1 deficit to grab a 13-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The referees called 13 fouls in the opening quarter, leading Naugy coach Jodie Burns to go to her bench. Burns called on Andrea Mercer and Mia Rotatori to pressure the ball and Woods and Michelle Cordova to secure rebounds in the paint.

The Greyhounds slowed Derby to a crawl as the Raiders managed just five points in the second quarter.

Boucher (14 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks) took over the game knocking down eight of Naugy’s nine points in the quarter. Hailey Deitelbaum made one of two at the line as the Greyhounds headed the locker room tied 18-18 at the half.

“When we play defense we give ourselves a chance to be successful,” Alyana Sosa said. “That puts a spark in our offense. Once we slowed Derby down we started to control the boards.”

Sosa was a key factor bringing the ball through the press to start the second half. Molly Kennedy (13 points) took a pass from Sosa and buried a three from the corner that put Naugy on top for good at 21-18.

“The last couple of games we have been able to generate a little bit of offense,” Kennedy said. “We usually play good defense but we need to be confident and look for our shot on offense.”  Aronin (10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals) scored on back-to-back possessions and Ally Mezzo (7 rebounds, 1 block) was making her presence felt down low as Naugatuck went into the final quarter holding a 25-20 advantage.

Twice in the fourth quarter Derby cut the lead to one and both times the Greyhounds responded. Naugy was clinging to a 27-26 lead with five minutes to play when Kennedy knocked down four straight free throws.

With 1:27 to go it was a 35-34 Naugy lead until Boucher and Aronin finished the deal hitting both ends of one-and-one situations at the line. At nine seconds left any chance of a Derby comeback was squashed when Rotatori dove on a loose ball to preserve the win.

“We just need to keep grinding these games out,” Boucher said. “We are still very much in this and I feel we have a chance to play in the states. I’m not ready for this to end just yet.”

Naugy will have a tough test on Friday when they host the Woodland Hawks.  The Greyhounds will hit the road next week to face Wilby on Tuesday and Torrington on Thursday, before wrapping up the regular season at home Feb. 16 versus Wolcott.