NAUGATUCK — A four-game losing streak was plenty of motivation for the Naugatuck girls, even if it was silent.
“This is a group of girls that doesn’t take kindly to being 2-5,” Naugy coach Jodie Ruccio said. “I don’t have to remind them.”
The Greyhounds reminded the Naugatuck Valley League why they were considered preseason championship contenders last Thursday night with a 62-32 thrashing of Wilby in the final game of the calendar year.
Naugy (3-5) never trailed and began the game on an 8-0 run over the first 3 ½ minutes. Angelina Piccirillo scored 11 of her game-high 24 points in the first quarter, including a jumper in the waning seconds to make it a 16-8 game.
The strong start was just what the Greyhounds needed.
“[The previous losses were] always close and we were wondering why nothing was going for us,” Piccirillo said. “We knew tonight would be a good rebuilding game to get us back on track.”
The ‘Hounds utilized full-court pressure to frustrate the Wildcats and earn a number of fast-break opportunities. Despite missing what Ruccio estimated was about two dozen layups, that fast-paced game helped Naugy pull away early.
“I’m happy that we won but I’m not happy with 20 missed layups,” Ruccio said. “That’s what kept us from beating Wolcott, Sacred Heart and Kennedy. We’re missing 20 layups a night and they’re not even contested.”
The pressure helped hold Wilby to 20 points at halftime and only 12 in the second half. Naugy blitzed the Wildcats at the start of the third quarter, mounting a 10-0 run to take a 41-20 lead and put the game out of reach.
“Our motto is 84 feet of heat,” Piccirillo said. “Those games we lost, it didn’t work for us. Tonight we came in focused on it.”
“We have girls that can run,” Ruccio added. “They might not be able to shoot that great and they might not be able to make layups, but they can run. If we can tire the other team out, as long as we’re close in the fourth quarter, we think we’re going to be better mentally and physically than the other team. We have to keep pressing and get better at that, no matter the score.”
Piccirillo led the full-court attack with her scoring and eight steals. On several occasions in the third quarter, Piccirillo stole the ball and dished to a wide-open Amy Dietz under the basket for layups. Dietz scored 13 points and grabbed 13 boards while Piccirillo had eight steals.
“She was determined,” Ruccio said of Piccirillo. “Ang is a competitor and she wanted to put the team on her shoulders.”
Rena Ceryak added seven points for Naugy, most coming in the fourth quarter. Felicia Gullotta added six points and seven boards.
The Greyhounds finish their first half of Copper Division games this week, at Crosby on Wednesday and home against Torrington on Friday. They’ll start crossover play in the Brass Division on Tuesday against Seymour.
“It’s always nice to end the year with a win,” Ruccio said. “It sets the tone for us. We believed before this game that we could finish the season 15-0. We’re very confident that we can play with pretty much any team out there. The games we’ve lost have been pretty much all missed layups. We’re excited and we’re going to dictate our own fate.”