TORRINGTON >> Wolcott’s boys basketball team won a 66-63 game at Torrington Tuesday night that was sheer delight from start to finish.
Both teams shot well and defended well. The refs were great. The crowd was great. Even the halftime show, featuring Torrington’s dance team, a super-acrobatic cheerleading squad and the Forbes Flyers, was great.
It was the way high school sports can be.
Wolcott (8-7) led by thin margins much of the way. Torrington (7-9) kept pace with one last shot for a tie at the buzzer.
“I’m just proud of these boys,” said Wolcott Coach Matt Craig, hoarse from a night of hollering instructions and encouragement to the Eagles. “They gave us a tough loss at our place (54-46, Torrington) a couple of weeks ago. They’re a tough team.”
“Wolcott made their shots tonight. They didn’t down there,” said Torrington Coach Eric Gamari.
Both teams are in the running for the NVL’s Iron Division crown — tied 3-2 behind 3-1 Watertown.
It was extra incentive, though Torrington was down two of its starters — guard Stephon Dailey with a season-ending stress fracture in his foot a few weeks ago, Connor Finn with a concussion in last Friday’s disastrous tilt against the state’s top team, Sacred Heart.
Regardless, Wolcott and Torrington looked like top teams Tuesday.
Wolcott senior Cole Phelps started the shooting splash with the game’s first three, seconds after the tap.
Torrington junior Nick Dalla Valle (11 points/three 3s) stepped up for the challenge, 5-3, Wolcott.
Eagle Matt Finke (13 points/two 3s) hit outside, 8-3.
Zak Mancini (game-high 21 points/four 3s) and Dalla Valle went back-to-back around a steal by Jake Boccio for Torrington’s first lead, 9-8.
Finke was back for another, 11-9, Wolcott. So was Dalla Falle, 12-11, Torrington.
Chris Maisto (11 points, two 3s) took back the lead for the Eagles with the eighth 3-pointer of the quarter.
Boccio (12 points) finished the period with just the second and third deuce of the game for a 16-14 Red Raider lead.
The teams never let up. Defenses shut down the perimeters; driving lanes opened up.
“We allowed too much penetration,” said Gamari.
Nevertheless, Mancini found space for two more threes in the second quarter, catching up to the Eagles, 33-32 in the final minute of the first half.
Finke, the quickest of Wolcott’s guards, darted in for the final score, 35-32.
By the third quarter, Torrington’s thin bench made the pace a drain.
Wolcott center Shamari Thomas went to work for six of his team-high 15 points with great inside moves and put-backs.
“He played much better than he did down there,” said Gamari.
With a final third-period put-back from Thomas, Wolcott led 50-45 at the end of the third quarter.
Midway through the final period, a three by Jason Vinisko had the Raiders back to 54-51 behind the Eagles.
Down 61-53 with two minutes left, it was Vinisko again with a steal and a coast-to-coast sprint, 61-55.
At 63-55, Raider David White (10 points) came up huge with a three-point play, 63-58.
With just 17 seconds left, White closed the gap again with the game’s final three, 64-61.
Twelve seconds left, Vinisko grabs the ball out of an Eagle’s hands.
Jordan Henneberry hits the layup, 64-63.
Wolcott’s Maisto hits two foul shots, four seconds left, 66-63.
Mancini gets to the corner, launches a turn-around three-point try with an Eagle in his face.
It hits the rim and bounces away.
Nobody in the gym complains.
Wolcott 66, Torrington 63
At Torrington High School
Wolcott 14 21 15 16 – 66
Torrington 16 16 13 18 – 63
Wolcott (66): Ricky Rogers 4-1-9; Matt Finke 4-3-13; Jack Rocco 3-0-7; Cole Phelps 2-0-5; Nate Filippone 0-0-0; Chris Maisto 3-3-11; Pat Drewry 3-0-6; Shamari Thomas 7-1-15; Totals: 26-8-66.
Torrington (63): Zak Mancini 7-3-21; Nick Dalla Valle 4-0-11; Jason Vinisko 3-0-7; Jake Boccio 4-4-12; Jordan Henneberry 1-0-2; David White 3-1-10; Totals: 23-8-63.
3-point goals: W – Finke 2; Rocco; Phelps; Maiso 2. T – Mancini 4; Dalla Valle 3; Vinisko; White.
Records: Wolcott 8-7; Torrington 7-9.