TORRINGTON — With just five games left in a regular season full of key injuries and tough losses, Torrington’s boys basketball team got clutch performances Friday night for 58-54 white-knuckle win over Watertown at Torrington High School.
With effectively just four games left for the three additional wins they need to qualify for the Division II state tournament (the final game is everybody’s loss to Sacred Heart, No. 3 in the state), the Red Raiders (5-10; 5-8 NVL) fought back from deficits in every quarter to pull away from the Indians (8-6; 7-6 NVL) for good in the final two minutes.
Junior center Ben Smith had his best game of the season with 10 points and five blocks.
Sophomore guard Jacob Groebl put away a steady 15 points.
And senior Justin Mattiello took the final bow with 14 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers and 5-for-7 shooting at the foul line down the stretch.
“They don’t have any quit,” said Watertown coach Paul Vance. “(Mattiello) outscored us all by himself in the fourth quarter.”
“We’ve been talking in practice about how we need to come out energized and willing to compete,” said Smith.
The Indians, playing without leading scorer Cam Garcia (20 ppg), got 15 points from Moni Jusufi and 13 from Brian McWhirt to lead them to a 31-29 halftime edge and 41-40 after three quarters.
Then Mattiello took the reigns for an early 3 for a 43-42 Torrington lead and two more to push the Raiders ahead 53-52 with 1:52 left in the game.
Three straight Mattiello foul shots stretched the lead to 56-54, 24 seconds left. Two more iced the win with just 3 seconds to go.
“You’ve got to keep your calm,” grinned the senior Raider guard. “I just kept checking the clock to see where I should be and what I should do if I miss. When I got to the foul line, I said to myself, ‘I know I can make these free throws.’”
“Ben played great and Justin was good down the stretch,” said Torrington coach Eric Gamari, counting up three possible wins to keep the energy flowing.
The Raiders’ next shot comes Tuesday at home against Ansonia.