TORRINGTON — Ansonia’s boys basketball team had too many pure athletes and too big a lead for Torrington’s furious second-half comeback in a 70-59 Charger win at Torrington High School Tuesday night.
Four of Ansonia’s five starters play key roles on a Charger football team that rules the NVL and often the Class S state tournament — most especially 6-2, 220-pound junior quarterback Sheldon Schuler, serving the same function as a point guard/forward at the Connie Donahue Gym Tuesday.
“These guys play AAU basketball as well as football,” said Ansonoia coach Shane Kingsley, who’s also one of the Charger football coaches. “(Schuler) had a triple double tonight (15 points, 12 assists, 17 rebounds). When he moves to the point, he calms the team down. He’s a leader; when he needs to score, he scores. When he sees the chance to feed others, he does that.”
Anyone who doubts that Ansonia football players can also be bona fide basketball players need only talk with Schuler.
“Basketball is my favorite sport,” he grins. “I like the nonstop up-and-down.”
The basketball prowess caught Torrington flat-footed in the first half. Sophomore guard Darell McKnight came out firing 3’s — three of his four treys in the half, 12 of his 16 points for the night. Center Noah Wagnblas (game-high 24 points) began his night-long feast under the basket on multiple put-back attempts and pinpoint passes from Schuler.
On defense, the Chargers picked off pass-after-pass from Torrington guards under-estimating Ansonia’s speed. Caught off-guard, the Red Raiders missed long strings of open layups.
Ansonia led 39-18 at the half.
In a game seemingly way out of reach, Torrington coach Eric Gamari fixed most of it in the locker room.
“It’s all about effort — understanding how good you have to be to beat teams,” Gamari said.
In the third quarter, that understanding was obvious.
The Raiders trapped on defense, gang-rebounded, made fast-break layups and passed for enough open looks for five 3’s on the way to a 27-13 quarter that brought them all the way back to 50-45 when sophomore Jacob Groebl hit the fifth one from the corner with less than a minute left in the period.
“They’re a well-coached team,” Kingsley said. “We knew they weren’t going to quit. And we started missing layups.”
Torrington’s Charlie Mathieu kept hitting threes, scoring 15 of his team-high 20 points in the second half, but Ansonia still had its basketball quarterback.
Schuler and Wagnblas teamed up for an 11-5 Ansonia run in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, carrying the Chargers back to a 63-50 lead and a lights-out call for the Raiders.
“We ran out of gas,” Gamari said.
Ben Smith finished with 10 points; Joe White had 12 for Torrington. Jadin Blackwell had 10 for Ansonia.
Ansonia rises to 9-6 overall, 8-6 in the league, an interesting challenge for opponents in the Division IV state tournament
Torrington, 5-11 overall, 5-9 NVL, needs three wins in its final four games to qualify for the Division II tournament. Wolcott, Derby and Kennedy are the Raiders’ best hopes before their final game against 14-0 Sacred Heart.