WINSTED >> Torrington’s boys basketball team (7-6) beat Gilbert 53-39 at The Gilbert School (8-5) Saturday night.
Don’t let the score fool you. The funniest/worst chant of the night from a great crowd came from the Torrington kids at the end.
“That was easy,” they sang.
They were kidding.
“I didn’t think it was a 14-point game,” said Gilbert Coach Mark Douglass.
Nobody did until a Red Raider full court press pushed up the margin in the final quarter.
Torrington plays in the NVL; Gilbert is in the Berkshire League, but both teams had much more at stake than bragging rights in the Northwest Corner.
Torrington started its season 5-1, then turned it backwards against stiffer league competition, going 1-5 including a double-overtime loss at Woodland Friday night.
Clearly, the Raiders needed another turn-around before heading back to a season that still includes league re-matches with Crosby, Kennedy, Sacred Heart and Wilby.
“The pressure of getting to states was starting to mount,” said Torrington coach Eric Gamari.
Gilbert’s biggest set-back came Thursday in a 62-36 loss at Granby from the North Central Connecticut Conference (NCCC). With a date against top-level BL opponent Lewis Mills next Tuesday, the Yellowjackets, too, needed a pick-me-up.
Both teams got what they needed from the outset.
“I knew (Gilbert was) going to be up. I was proud of our energy,” said Coach Gamari.
“I was proud of the way my kids came out with intensity,” echoed Coach Douglass.
The palpable energy on both sides led to scoring standoffs at times, stand-up-and-shout plays at others.
Gilbert center/forward Yoharkey Sarmiento (team-high 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks), in one of his best games of the year, represented the game’s controlled explosiveness on both sides, leading his team to standoffs for the first three quarters at 9-8, Torrington; 22-21, Gilbert; and 31-30, Torrington. If Sarmiento was the explosion, Torrington guard Zak Mancini (game-high 22 points) represented the persistent pressure on both sides.
One more turn of the spigot by Torrington, with a full-court press in the final period, finally won the game.
Up just one point after three (31-30), the Raiders went on an seven-point run in the fourth quarter’s first two minutes. John McCarthy (14 points), Dom Sabia and Mancini put up points with the help of three turnovers caused by the press.
Gilbert’s Yordan Reyes and Sarmiento got it back to 41-37, 3:36 left, after a Mancini fast break and a Sarmiento dunk laid down the final gauntlets.
McCarthy and Sarmiento dueled to 44-39, 1:55 left.
Then Torrington played its final cards with the press — a steal and a layup by Mancini, turnover and layup by McCarthy and one final McCarthy steal and Mancini fast break to seal the game at 51-39.
Only when Torrington’s Connor Finn went to the foul line for the game’s final two points, 28 seconds left, could the Raider crowd make their joke.
It was anything but easy.
“What a game! I think both teams represented the Northwest Corner very well,” said Coach Douglass.
Torrington 53, Gilbert 39
At The Gilbert School
Torrington 9 12 10 22—53
Gilbert 8 14 8 9—39
Torrington (53): Victor Diaz 0-0-0; Zak Mancini 10-1-22; Stephon Dailey 0-0-0; Jerry Aguero 0-0-0; John McCarthy 5-4-14; Connor Finn 0-2-2; Jake Boccio 0-0-0; Mitch Zagrodnik 3-1-7; Spencer Mourges 1-0-3; Dom Sabia 2-1-5; Tim Considine 0-0-0; Totals: 21-9-53.
Gilbert (39): Yoharkey Sarmiento 7-4-19; Anthony Gonzalez 1-0-2; Christian DeLaPaz 3-0-6; Yordan Reyes 2-0-6; Matt Coon 1-0-2; Mike Rodriguez 1-0-2; T.J. Maher 0-0-0; Pepe Napolean 1-0-2; Garrett Lombardo 0-0-0; Jake Wendel 0-0-0: Totals: 16-4-39.
3-point goals: T—Mancini; Mourges. G—Sarmiento; Reyes 2.
Records: Torrington 7-6; Gilbert 8-5.