TORRINGTON — For the second Division III boys basketball tournament game in a row, No. 5 seed Torrington turned on its jets to soar out of a tight first half, gliding to a 73-58 quarterfinal final against No. 13 West Haven Monday night at Torrington High School.
Last Thursday, against No. 12 Stratford, the score was tied at the half when the Red Raiders kicked in the afterburners for an eventual 25-point win in a combination of fast breaks and outside shooting.
Monday, it was mostly Torrington speed and height.
After the Blue Devils hung with Torrington for a 25-21 halftime deficit on the strength of their own quickness and outside shooting — 10 points from Malcolm Duncanson, including a three, another pair of threes from Tyrese Hargrove — the Raiders started the second half on an 8-2 run building to a 29-14 third quarter advantage that left the Devils on the horizon at 54-35.
“We can get going in transition and, when they slow us down, we go into our half-court set,” said Torrington forward Joel Villanueva (17 points, including three 3s), who took turns feeding or receiving handoffs with center Kevin Dixon (14 points) for multiple give-and-go plays from the post.
“We call it our Laker set,” Villanueva said.
“When I get a pass in the post, (Villanueva) automatically cuts,” Dixon said. “They play an aggressive defense, so we had to do a lot of back cutting.”
“They’re a fun group to watch,” Torrington coach Eric Gamari said. “They call those cuts ‘old man basketball’ but they work.”
“They had it in size,” West Haven coach Tyrese Sullivan said. “Quickness was our advantage.”
The Raiders got scoring from everywhere in their huge third period, including point guard Dontae Thomas (game-high 18 points), forward Tyreek Davis (16), Villanueva and Dixon on handoffs and put-backs.
Nevertheless, the Devils had their own game to show off in a final period featuring four West Haven threes, including two in a row from Shea Sheffield.
A Duncanson layup brought the Westies back within 56-45.
“We were down 19 and made a game of it,” Sullivan said.
That’s when Thomas took a star turn of his own, putting down 10 points for the quarter, including 4-for-5 from the foul line.
“Nobody expected us to be here. I’m proud of my guys,” Sullivan said.
“(The Raiders) are coming into their own,” Gamari said.
West Haven finishes the season 14-10.
Torrington, 19-6, lines up in the semifinals against No. 9 Amistad (17-6) at Wilby High School Wednesday at 7 p.m.