WATERBURY >> Torrington High School’s boys basketball team knocked off a Waterbury city school for the second time in five days Saturday evening, with a 77-68 win over Kennedy High School in the first round of the NVL Tournament.
Tuesday, Torrington took down Wilby in the final game of the regular season. Saturday, seeded sixth in the eight-team tournament, the Red Raiders drew No. 3 Kennedy in the same Wilby gym.
Thought the Eagles (16-5; 15-5 NVL) squeaked past Torrington (12-9; 11-9 NVL) two times in overtime in the regular season, any coach will tell you it’s hard to beat a good team three times.
In what’s become a good-luck/love-your-team charm in the two-game run, Coach Eric Gamari guaranteed a victory before Saturday’s game, then stomped, hollered and schemed his team to the payoff.
“We followed the script,” he said. “We knew they overplay their man defense and they switch from 3-2 to 2-3 to 1-2-2 zones that can be confusing. We solved them well enough.”
Following their now-typical overtime-in-the-making script, the teams played a galloping lockstep through most of the game, with rotating heros for Torrington and a late arrival on stage for Kennedy star Don Jarrett.
Mitch Zagrodnik scored 14 of Torrington’s first-quarter points, finishing with 20 for the game. Zak Mancini poured in a steady stream of threes (7 for the game) for a team-high 29 points.
Mancini’s total almost negated Jarett’s game-high 31. Torrington’s Desmond Langs and Connor Finn traded off in the defensive assignment, holding the junior all-star to just eight points in the first half before coming alive in the second.
“Connor’s and Desmond’s defense has helped this run tremendously,” said Gamari. “Jarrett had to work for everything today.”
“We knew he was a phenomenal player; we just went out and did what we had to do,” said Langs, who added 14 points of his own underneath.
“He’s a great player; we just had to try to stay in front of him,” said Finn.
Overcoming a 59-48 Torrington lead at the start of the final period, Jarrett had Kennedy back to two, 64-62 midway through the quarter.
But Torrington spent the whole game proving its own big-time players.
In the first quarter, Kennedy’s defense threatened to sweep Torrington away.
Zagrodnik was a rock for the Raiders’ first eight points. The Eagles forced eight turnovers in the first five minutes from the rest of the team.
“We knew we had to play fast,” said Zagrodnik. “I just found a lot of holes and got a lot of assists.”
Nevertheless, Jarrett’s first four points of the game brought the Kennedy lead to 17-8 and trouble.
Gamari called time out for the fix.
Mancini, John McCarthy (11 points), Langs and Zagrodnik responded with an 11-2 run, tying the score 19-19 at the end of the period.
Torrington, too, plays fast.
In the second period, Jairo Suarez, Juquan Love (10 points) and Jarrett gave Kennedy small margins. Threes by Mancini and Mourges pulled it back. Langs followed a 5-0 Eagle run by Love and Darryl Flowers (12 points) with a three-point play back to 33-32 Kennedy at the half.
The Raiders won the game in the third quarter. The rest was hanging on.
Jarrett started the period with a steal and an end-to-end conversion, 35-32, Kennedy.
Then Langs, Mancini, McCarthy and Zagrodnik had their day.
In four minutes, from 5:40 to 1:54, Torrington smoked the court: Langs with a put-back, Mancini fast break on a feed from McCarthy, Zagrodnik foul shot, Mancini two threes in a row, McCarthy three from the corner and Zagrodnik layup from McCarthy — a 21-4 Raider run, ending with a 53-39 Torrington lead.
All the Eagles could do was try to catch up.
Jarrett came close.
He finished the third quarter on a 9-4 personal run, 57-48, then added 10 more in a fourth-quarter 14-7 Kennedy spree to 64-62, 3:36 left.
McCarthy and Mancini pulled it away again, 69-64, 1:30 left.
With time running out, Mancini and McCarthy went 6-for-6 from the foul line, surrounding one more great Torrington play, Langs to Zagrodnik for a layup.
The Raiders earned a trip back to Wilby Monday for a 5 p.m. semifinal game with No. 2 seed Sacred Heart, ranked fourth in GametimeCt’s statewide poll.
No guarantees yet.
No. 6 Torrington 77, No. 3 Kennedy 68
At Wilby High School
Torrington 19 13 25 20—77
Kennedy 19 14 15 20—68
Torrington (77): Victor Diaz 0-0-0; Zak Mancini 9-4-29; John McCarthy 4-2-11; Connor Finn 0-0-0; Mitch Zagrodnik 9-1-20; Spencer Mourges 1-0-3; Desmond Langs 4-6-14; Dom Sabia 0-0-0; Totals: 27-13-77.
Kennedy (68): Daquan Bowes 2-0-4; Jequan Love 4-1-10; Don Jarrett 12-4-31; Jairo Suarez 2-0-4; D’Andre Boatwright 2-1-5; Darryl Flowers 5-2-12; Tyreek Middleton 0-0-0; Larry Lock 1-0-2; Brandon Espinell 0-0-0; Kaheel Gaskins 0-0-0; Totals: 28-8-68.
3-point goals: T—Mancini 7; McCarthy; Zagrodnik; Mourges. K—Love; Jarrett 3.
Records: Torrington 12-9; 11-9 NVL; Kennedy 16-5; 15-5 NVL.
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