TORRINGTON — Two NVL boys basketball teams trying to establish themselves switched personalities midway through a 71-66 Torrington win over St. Paul Catholic Friday night at Torrington High School.
The Red Raiders couldn’t miss in the first quarter, streaking to a 26-9 lead in the first 10 minutes on the strength of six 3-pointers from four different players, riding their 28-13 lead at the end of the quarter through two more periods before buckling on St. Paul’s fourth-quarter press while missing 10 clutch foul shots in the period.
“It was just like practice,” said Torrington coach Eric Gamari, who fields an all-new set of starters after last year’s run to the Division III semifinals. “We’re hot and then we hit a lull. Tonight, the nerves kicked in.”
“We don’t play for comebacks,” said St. Paul coach Steve Phelps. “You’ve got to show up at the beginning of the game. We decided not to defend in the first quarter.
“We need to find our identity and consistency,” Phelps said. “We need five players out there for the whole game.”
Ironically, St. Paul’s Noah Waters (game-high 21 points, including 5 3s) began the first-quarter barrage of 3s.
Torrington’s Nick Balducci (14 points, two 3s) answered immediately but the Chargers (2-3) ran up a 9-7 lead in the first three minutes.
Then St. Paul shooters went cold and Torrington stole all the heat. In the next three minutes, Justin Mattiello (15 points, four 3s) hit back-to-back treys and followed up with a layup feed to T.J. Calabrese (10 points).
Center Ben Smith came outside for a 3. Mattiello fed Joe White for a layup, then drained another trey.
White added another 3 from the corner, 26-9.
A.J. Brooks (14 points) ended the Chargers’ drought at the foul line, but the gap was established, staying put through an 18-18 second quarter and a 16-14 St. Paul advantage in the third.
Then the shoe dropped on Torrington. In the face of St. Paul’s full-court press, the Raiders struggled to get the ball past midcourt and the Chargers had all the offensive heat. Brooks had his best quarter inside with eight points; Will Burton (17 points) hauled down rebounds and played a key role on defense; Tom Lorenzetti and Jack Noli sank 3s outside.
Torrington (2-4; 2-3 NVL) began the final quarter with a 60-50 lead. With 56 seconds left, Brooks’ put-back made it a two-point game, 68-66.
Torrington survived on 3-for-6 shooting from the foul line as time ran out.
“Everything you do in practice counts,” said Gamari.