TORRINGTON — Expectations loom high when a boys basketball scrimmage draws a crowd.
Two-time NVL Iron Division defending champion Torrington hosted Berkshire League Tournament champion and state tournament Division V finalist Wamogo Monday night in the teams’ final tune-up before the boys high school basketball regular season begins Thursday.
Both teams are expected — certainly by the crowd on hand — to be at least as good this year.
“We’ve got a target on our backs,” grinned Wamogo coach Gregg Hunt, who returns his entire team, bigger, stronger and more experienced than last year.
Garrett Sattazahn (19 points per game); Ethan Collins (12.9 ppg); Reid Turtoro (12.5 ppg) and Sean Coffey (10.6 ppg) lead a deep cast that swarms on defense and races on offense.
The Red Raiders wear a similar target in the Iron Division after racking up a 15-1 division record in the past two years.
Leading scorers Dontae Thomas (12.5 ppg) and Joel Villanueva (11.4 ppg) return, along with point guard Tyreek Davis, back as a senior after missing his junior year.
“Joel’s better; Dontae’s better and (forward Kevin Dixon) is better,” said Coach Eric Gamari, who might go 10 deep on his bench depending on the opponent.
But nobody’s expecting a cake walk.
In the Berkshire League, “Shepaug is as athletic as we are,” said Coach Hunt. “Gilbert is athletic and Lewis Mills still has Josh Schibi (19.6 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, 1,000-point club).”
Still, if the BL might be Wamogo’s for the taking, this year’s state tournament is another matter after the Warriors’ success bumped them up to Division III.
“All the teams we’ve scrimmaged (including Torrington) are Division III and we’ve held our own,” said Hunt. “We’ll be fine; I’ll worry about it in March.”
Torrington faces major tests long before that, not only with a strong Iron Division, including St. Paul Catholic and Wolcott, but five games against Waterbury’s NVL Brass Division, home of some of the top teams in the state.
“We beat Crosby, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart in the fall league, though Sacred Heart played without it’s seven-footer (sophomore Connor Tierney). It gave us some confidence,” said Gamari.
The Raiders test their confidence at home next Tuesday against Holy Cross after starting the season Thursday in an out-of-league game at Newtown.
Wamogo, which already hosts its own Litchfield Hills Holiday Classic on Dec. 29, could have another one in back-to-back home and away games with Shepaug two days after Christmas and the day after New Year.