TORRINGTON — Torrington’s boys basketball team pulled off one of its best games of the season in a 61-49 win over Waterbury Career Academy, whose 5-7 record belies what a good team they can be.
“We lack consistency,” WCA coach Ronan O’Leary said.
A month ago, the Spartans beat Crosby by 20 points (95-75). Last Friday, they lost by six to a so-so St. Paul Catholic team without two of their starters.
Wednesday night at Torrington High School, WCA was back to full strength, playing like the team that beat Crosby, responsible for one of Torrington’s two league losses (9-3; 8-2 NVL).
“We came in knowing it was going to be a fight,” said Red Raider Joel Villanueva. “We were going to have to play our best D and give it all our energy.”
Torrington, too, was back at almost full strength, with guard Dontae Thomas making his first appearance after missing a week-and-a-half with a sprained ankle.
“They’re tough,” said Thomas, who provides much of the energy boost Torrington’s best games. “Any city school is tough.”
This year, Torrington is one of the schools proving tough NVL basketball is also played in the suburbs.
Villanueva (17 points) came out firing for all of Torrington’s opening points in a 9-6 Raider lead.
Marquan Watson, missing from the St. Paul game, is WCA’s great equalizer. The 6-foot-4 senior forward, averaging more than 20 rebounds a game, made his rebounding average Wednesday while scoring a game-high 26 points, many of them on put-backs.
“I asked T.J. (Calabrese, with the unsatisfying job of battling Watson underneath) if he had fun tonight. He had one word, ‘No,’ ” laughed Torrington coach Eric Gamari.
Nevertheless, while Watson was showing his skills, Torrington showed its depth, experience and toughness.
After Watson brought the Spartans to a 9-8 first-quarter deficit, Tyreek Davis (team-high 22 points), sick with a sore throat most of the week, came off the bench for an immediate 3-pointer.
Thomas (19 points) followed with another three, building an edge that carried the Raiders through leads of 17-14 after the first-quarter, 29-26 at the half.
But Watson is relentless, with just enough support to give him space. Midway through the third quarter, a Watson five-footer earned the first Spartan lead, 30-29, followed by a three from Khalil Simon from the corner, 33-29.
Meanwhile, a nagging game-long Spartan press began to get results.
“In previous games, we turned the ball over and lost our focus,” Villanueva said. “Tonight we showed our maturity.”
Down 33-29 Torrington went on a 16-3 run to take the lead — Davis laid it in on a great pass from Villanueva; Thomas drove to the hoop; Davis was good for a three-point play; Thomas hit from the foul line; Davis on another layup from Villanueva; Thomas from the baseline; Davis on a 3 from the corner at the buzzer.
“They’re an experienced team, used to the pressure and they play together,” O’Leary said.
Torrington started the final period ahead 45-36. All that was left to do was withstand more pressure.
“We passed the ball; we didn’t overdribble. We kept our calm; we kept our poise,” said Gamari through the final flurry. “We’ve been saying all year, team, team, team.”
TORRINGTON 61, WATERBURY CAREER ACADEMY 49
WCA 14 12 10 13 — 49
TORRINGTON 17 12 16 16 — 61
Marquan Watson 11-3-26; Langstun Racine 2-3-7; Khalil Simon 1-0-3; Jonathan Edwards 2-0-5; Lawrence Lazaro 4-0-8; Totals: 20-6-49.
Dontae Thomas 8-2-19; Tyreek Davis 9-1-22; Joel Villaneuva 7-2-17; C.J. Root 1-0-3; Totals: 25-5-61.
3-point goals: W — Watson; Simon; Edwards. T — Thomas; Davis 3; Villanueva; Root.
Records: WCA 5-7. Torrington 9-3; 8-2 NVL.