TORRINGTON — Torrington’s boys basketball team played its way to a third straight NVL Iron Division Championship with a 57-47 win over Wolcott Thursday night at Torrington High School.
The Red Raiders will share the title with Wolcott and Naugatuck, if Naugatuck beats St. Paul Catholic in the last Iron Division game for the three teams.
“I didn’t think we’d make it this year,” said Coach Eric Gamari, not because he lacked faith in his team, but because the division is particularly strong.
The three champions all split with each other, including Friday’s win over Wolcott.
In what might be an accolade to both teams, Thursday’s game was the flip side of Wolcott’s 93-87 win over Torrington a month ago, in which shooters on both sides were red hot.
Thursday, everybody was cold, so defense was the name of the game.
That played well for the Red Raiders, where Kevin Dixon, Joel Villanueva and Zach McLaughlin lurked under the basket to frustrate Eagle drives.
“I love playing defense, so blocks are the reward,” grinned Dixon, who caught up with two Wolcott fast breaks in a row in the deciding fourth quarter.
Before that, it was, “Good Luck” to anyone who could make a shot outside.
Wolcott forward Elmin Redzepagic (game-high 27 points) squirmed through for 16 of the Eagles’ 21 points in the first half. Dontae Thomas (team-high 21 points) and Joel Villanueva (17 points) kept pace with 10 and 6 points in the half, but the score at the end of the first period was just 10-6 Torrington and 27-21 at the half.
Redzepagic found the range in the third quarter when his two threes swung Wolcott into its first lead, 37-34, with 1:55 left in the period.
Nick Balducci sank his second trey at the buzzer to bring the Raiders back to one point down, 40-39.
Then Torrington’s defense went to work in earnest. The Raiders took over on an 8-0 run before Wolcott scored its first point of the fourth quarter, on a Brian Perzhilla foul shot with 3:68 left in the game.
Trailing 47-41 with 2:24 left, the Eagles were forced to foul while still stymied at the basket.
Thomas and C.J. Root were 4-for-4 at the line. Thomas finished a fast break.
A Perzhilla three closed the gap to 53-44 with 44 seconds left, but, by then, the game was out of reach.
“Both teams understood the significance of the game,” said Coach Gamari, in partial explanation of the cold shooting.
“It was one of our better defensive efforts,” he said, as an explanation for the rest.
“Hats off to Torrington,” said Wolcott coach Matt Craig. “They stretched us out and did a great job of collapsing on us on defense.”
Torrington 57, Wolcott 47
At Torrington High School
Wolcott 6 15 19 7 — 47
Torrington 10 17 12 18 — 57
Wolcott (47): Jeff Nicol 2-0-4; Dane Hassan 1-0-3; Brian Perzhilla 2-3-8; Elmin Redzepagic 11-3-27; Jack Drewry 2-1-5; Totals: 18-7-47.
Torrington (57): Dontae Thomas 9-2-21; Nick Balducci 2-0-6; Tyreek Davis 3-0-7; Joel Villanueva 4-8-17; C.J. Root 0-2-2; Totals: 20-12-57.
3-point goals: W — Hassan; Perzhilla; Redzepagic 2. T — Thomas; Balducci 2; Davis; Villanueva.
Records: Wolcott 12-6; 11-5 NVL. Torrington 13-4; 12-3 NVL.