TORRINGTON >> Torrington High School’s boys basketball team (6-5) combined very bad and very good in an 83-77 loss to Wilby (9-3) that showed how close the Red Raiders are to going neck-and-neck with the top of the NVL.
Both teams came to Torrington High School in need of a boost Tuesday night. Each started the season hot, then dropped three-out-of-four games.
“We’re struggling,” said
Wilby coach Alan Piccolo. “We’re not hitting our shots. Rebounding is our biggest problem. We’re not that big. Nobody wants to box out.”
The Raiders played tough against Kennedy and Sacred Heart, but the shooting touch that helped them climb to a 5-1 opening record waned after an overtime loss to Kennedy.
Tuesday, both teams looked like strugglers in the first quarter.
Wilby put up the game’s first three points on foul shots a minute-and-a-half into the game.
Torrington missed its first two layup opportunities, then finally made one three minutes in, 3-2.
Wilby got untracked first. Torrington hung onto an 8-6 deficit with three minutes left in the period, then continued with its worst quarter of the season as Wilby’s Denzel Mitchell (game-high 23 points), Lateef Belewu (15 points) and Kenan Jasavic (8 points) led the Wildcats on a 10-1 spree that left the Raiders sinking into an 18-7 hole.
The pace quickened in the second quarter. Both teams looked better.
“We practice fast, especially when we’re preparing for a team like Wilby,” said Torrington forward Mitch Zagrodnik. “We like scoring on layups.”
John McCarthy (team-high 18 points); Zagrodnik (17 points); Victor Diaz (8 points); and Zak Mancini made eight straight layups in the second period while Wilby’s Belewu, Taifa Wright (22 points) and Mitchell went outside for a 22-21 advantage for the quarter.
The standoff ended in a 40-28 Wilby lead at the half.
The stalemate lasted through one more quarter, 55-44, Wilby.
Then, in the final quarter, Torrington finished its rise from worst in the first to one of its best in the fourth.
Diaz and Mancini started with short range jumpers, 55-48.
Wilby’s Wright and Jasavic answered with a drive and an inbounds layup.
Torrington’s Zagrodnik fired the next five points outside, 59-53.
“Senior leadership needs to be there at the end,” said the senior forward.
Zagrodnik had nine points in the quarter. Center Desmond Langs poured in nine more, along with huge rebounds from both of them.
“We stopped getting back on defense and gave up on offensive rebounding,” said Coach Piccolo.
Nevertheless, the Wildcats held their lead to 10 (71-61) with just 2:24 left in the game.
Torrington senior captain McCarthy made his move.
After a Torrington timeout, Langs stepped in for a steal. McCarthy finished with a layup, then came back for a three-point play after a Wilby turnover, 71-65.
Better still, after slogging through Wilby’s full court press most of the game, the Raiders turned the tables in the final quarter with an effective press of their own.
“We like putting pressure on the ball,” said Zagrodnik. “Toward the end, that’s when we lay it on.”
McCarthy had 11 points in the final quarter, including five-for-five at the foul line.
With 1:39 left, McCarthy’s pair of foul shots closed Wilby’s lead to five, 73-68.
Langs had it down to three, 75-72, with a put-back, 1:08 left, then kept it there with two foul shots, 77-74.
With 26 seconds left, McCarthy whittled it to two, 78-76, at the foul line.
Wilby’s Wright took it back to five with more foul shots, 81-76.
The final three points were back on the foul line, two of them by Wilby’s Belewu.
“It was that first quarter that did us in, but we broke out of our funk,” said Torrington coach Eric Gamari.
Wilby 83, Torrington 77
At Torrington High School
Wilby 18 22 15 28—83
Torrington 7 21 16 33—77
Wilby (83): Denzel Mitchell 8-7-23; Taifa Wright 7-6-22; Dimitri Yates 1-0-2; Devon Johnson 0-0-0; Lateef Belewu 5-4-15; Mohammed Serdah 0-0-0; Carlos Bonilla 5-1-11; Marquant Bryant 0-0-0; Emir Jasavic 1-0-2; Kenan Jasavic 3-2-8; Totals: 30-20-83.
Torrington (77): Victor Diaz 4-0-8; Zak Mancini 4-0-10; Stephon Dailey 1-0-2; Jerry Aguero 1-0-2; John McCarthy 6-6-18; Connor Finn 1-0-2; Mitch Zagrodnik 8-0-17; Spencer Mourges 1-0-2; Desmond Langs 5-5-15; Dom Sabia 0-1-1; Totals: 31-12-77.
3-point goals: W—Wright 2; Belewu. T—Mancini 2; Zagrodnik.
Records: Wilby 9-3; Torrington 6-5.