TORRINGTON >> As expected, Torrington girls basketball (9-3) romped, 61-29, over winless Wilby (0-13) Friday night at Torrington High School.
But a ho-hum game becomes an opportunity to showcase a Red Raider coach whose teams are consistently this dominant in the Naugatuck Valley League, often regardless of innate talents.
Mike Fritch, a 24-year veteran who passed the 400-win mark two years ago, is one of eight high school girls basketball coaching finalists for this year’s National Coach of the Year award presented by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.
Fritch is a state coach of the year and a member of the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, but national recognition is a big move up by anyone’s standards.
Typical of his style, none of his 11 players played anything but hard against the Wildcats Friday — not after a 16-6 first quarter, 36-13 half or 48-21 third quarter.
In fact, not ever.
“Part of it is being organized, disciplined and demanding,” said Fritch of the process he follows year after year. “They know I have a passion for what I do and most of them would run through walls for me.”
For his players, it’s not just basketball.
“He tries to teach us life lessons as well as basketball,” said All-State guard/forward Brie Pergola, the only real star on this year’s team. Pergola led the team as usual with 16 points and 7 rebounds Friday.
“He treats us like family,” said forward/center Sidnee Kovall, finally flourishing this year as a senior.
“It starts as freshmen,” says Fritch. “We plan from that freshman class, trying to identify who’s going to make the transition, trying to project over a four-year span. If you don’t do that, you could have a bad year.”
That rarely happens at Torrington, despite a dwindling Class L school population headed for Class M in many sports.
One of the undeniable keys is Fritch’s insistence on intensity from his teams.
“It’s never okay to be ‘okay’,” is a phrase quoted by team members as his number one life lesson.
“World leaders were never satisfied with ‘okay,’” Fritch argues.
“I look at (team members) as young adults, but the bottom line is, they’re still kids – great kids with great families and great parents.”
Friday, those kids went out and did their jobs on-court with a passion and firm belief they can be better than ‘okay,’ along with their coach.
Torrington 61, Wilby 29
At Torrington High School
Wilby 6 7 8 8 – 29
Torrington 16 20 12 13 – 61
Wilby (29): Javilet Soto 3-0-7; Tyla Hyman 1-0-3; Jerica Fabian 2-0-4; Gigi Colon 0-0-0; Gloria Rivera 2-2-7; Sadah Gilchrist 2-2-6; Taylor Saunders 1-0-2; Totals: 11-4-29.
Torrington (61): Alexis Tyrrell 4-0-8; Colleen Kilgore 0-2-2; Brie Pergola 8-0-16; Sidnee Kovall 3-0-6; Shannon Reardon 4-2-10; Sara Bardwell 1-0-2; Alyssa Maraia 3-1-8; Kirsten Gray 0-0-0; Amelia Mierzwinski 0-0-0; Kayla Williams 2-3-7; Alicia Caskey 1-0-2; Totals: 26-8-61.
Halftime Score: 36-13 Torrington
3-point goals: W – Soto; Hyman; Rivera. T – Maraia.
Records: Wilby 0-13; 0-11 NVL. Torrington 9-3; 9-2 NVL.