TORRINGTON >> Kennedy’s boys basketball team took home an 86-82 overtime thriller at Torrington High School Thursday night.
“Both teams needed a game like this,” smiled Torrington coach Eric Gamari, whose 5-2 Red Raiders regularly beat lesser teams by 20 and 30 points this season, just like 6-1 Kennedy.
“Torrington has been averaging over 70 points a game; you gotta expect this kind of a game,” said Kennedy coach Armand Levasseur. “They’re going to come and compete.”
Both coaches looked at the game as a measuring stick a third of the way through the schedule.
“We’ll see what we’re made of,” said Levasseur before the game.
His Eagles led highly-regarded Sacred Heart through most of a game at Kennedy, then lost it in the final three minutes.
“I think they wore us down,” he said.
Torrington had the opposite experience at league-leading Crosby, losing by more than 30.
“We started slow down there; it was nice to come out fast here,” said senior forward Mitch Zagrodnik.
“We have to control (junior forward Don Jarrett) and we have to handle their (man-to-man) defense,” said Gamari as keys to the game before it began.
The Raiders accomplished two of those missions.
They swooped in on the Eagle defense to a red-hot 18-3 lead four-and-a-half minutes into the game, going stride-for-stride with Kennedy the entire match.
Jarrett came to life with two minutes left in the first. He led the Eagles back to a 21-17 deficit by the end of the first period and kept on soaring.
Jarrett finished with 41 points, including 13-of-14 from the foul line.
Torrington’s John McCarthy (27) and Zak Mancini (23) combined for 50.
The real difference came at the foul line. Along with Jarrett’s near-perfection, the Eagles shot 20-for-30; the Raiders were 10-for-21.
“This is a hard gym to win in,” said Jarrett. “Our last few minutes here makes up for Sacred Heart.”
Ironically, by the time both teams ran themselves ragged into a 75-75 tie, Coach Gamari thought his team was “fatigued toward the end.”
Neither team stopped.
All the Raiders started on fire. McCarthy hit a three-pointer 30 seconds into the game. Against the Eagle full court press, Connor Finn pulled up for a five-foot jumper; Zagrodnick (17 points) had a put-back, then buried a three.
Jairo Suarez (16 points) hit Kennedy’s first points on a three with 4:25 left in the first period.
Mancini, with five threes for the game, hit another one. Then, Torrington, not Kennedy, showed its defense with a steal by McCarthy and fast break finish by Zagrodnik.
The home crowd — loud but smaller than it should have been for a game like this — roared its appreciation.
The Raiders couldn’t possible stay that hot. Kennedy’s Jarrett couldn’t possibly stay that silent.
Kennedy led 45-43 by the half. Jarrett had 21 points, including three treys in the second quarter.
Mancini and McCarthy led Torrington’s charge back to a 65-59 lead by the end of the third quarter with the help of more stiff defense and a pair of threes from Mancini.
Kennedy had it back, 74-71 on one of Jarrett’s six threes for the game, with 4:10 left in regulation.
McCarthy and freshman starter Dom Sabia wouldn’t let it slip away.
With 1:46 left in regulation, McCarthy stole the ball, raced for a layup, 74-73, Kennedy. Sabia, tough all night under the basket, came down with a rebound, got fouled and sank two shots, 75-74, Torrington, 1:19 left.
Kennedy’s Darryl Flowers evened it with one more foul shot.
The four-minute overtime swung back and forth by a point until Jarrett’s final three of the night raised an 80-78 space for the Eagles.
After a Kennedy foul shot, Mancini hit a jumper from the line, 81-80, Kennedy, 1:10 left in the game.
Another Kennedy foul shot and a layup by Jequan Love (13 points), 84-80, 15 seconds left.
Zagrodnik layup, 5 seconds left, 84-82.
Jarrett at the line, three seconds left, with a final 2-for-2.
“I learned a lot about our guys tonight. I’m really happy,” said Torrington coach Gamari. “I told my guys, ‘I’m really proud of you.’”
“We needed a game like that to show we can run with the Waterbury teams,” said Zagrodnik.
Kennedy 86, Torrington 82 (OT)
At Torrington High School
Kennedy 17 28 14 16 11—86
Torrington 21 22 22 10 7—82
Kennedy (86): Jequan Love 6-1-13; Don Jarrett 11-13-41; Jairo Suarez 6-2-16; D’Andre Boatwright 0-0-0; Darryl Flowers 2-3-7; Tyreek Middleton 1-0-2; Malik Bayon 2-0-4; Larry Lock 1-0-2; Brandon Espinell 0-1-1. Totals: 29-20-86.
Torrington (82): Victor Diaz 3-0-6; Zak Mancini 8-0-23; John McCarthy 10-5-27; Connor Finn 1-0-2; Mitch Zagrodnik 7-2-17; Desmond Langs 2-0-4; Dom Sabia 0-3-3. Totals: 30-10-82.
3-point goals: K—Jarrett 6; Suarez 2. T—Mancini 5; McCarthy 2; Zagrodnik.
Records: Kennedy 6-1; Torrington 5-2.