After Tourney Berth Clinching, WHS Boys Drop Three Straight: Indians in Search of Winning Formula

SKYIN’ BRIAN - Brian McWhirt (14) of Watertown High School, here about to win a jump ball, has been everything boys’ basketball coach J. Paul Vance could ask for at both ends of the floor this season. McWhirt, a 6’ senior, is averaging 10 points and six rebounds per game for the CIAC tournament-bound Indians. 

TERRYVILLE -  Since earning their way into the CIAC tournament, the Watertown High School boys’ basketball team finds itself in the same dilemma as a first-time motorist caught in the Mixmaster with a confused GPS. The Indians are having all sorts of problems finding their way to one of the off-ramps. While there’s no doubt that by any measure this has been a scintillating and quite satisfying comeback season for the program, coach J. Paul Vance’s team, for the first time, is scrambling to get back on the main road.

After back-to-back NVL losses to Iron Division rivals Naugatuck and Torrington, the Indians traveled to Terryville High School to face the Kangaroos of the Berkshire League on February 10 in a game representing the three-quarter way mark in the 20-game regular season.

From the outset, the Indians put themselves in a hole which was near-impossible to dig (or shoot) their way out, as they were soundly defeated by a solid THS team, 62-50, their third straight setback dropping them to 8-7 overall.

Terryville, which improved to 9-6, ran the locals out of the gym in the first quarter with a 23-5 burst led by junior Dylan Matulis, a 5’ 11” guard who would finish the game with 26 points and three of the Roos’ nine three-point field goals.  

Matulis’ backcourt partner, senior Zach Rinkavage added 13 points; the Terryville defense kept the Indians in check throughout the game, holding them to 27 points through three quarter.

Little factoid: In all but one of their losses the Indians have been held to 55 points or less.

For the second straight game, Moni Jusufi led the Indians in scoring with 16 points; Cam Guerrera added 11 and Brian McWhirt scored nine points.

Fear not, WHS Nation, Vance and his team will get the GPS working and they’ll find their way back to being what they’ve been this season: A very good basketball team.

                    1  2  3  4   T

Watertown 5 16  6 23 50

Terryville  23 16 4 19 62

C.J. Maynard 2-0-6; Moni Jusufi 6-2-16; Brian McWhirt 3-3-9; Danny Toroveci 0-0-0; Cam Guerrera 5-1-11; Matthew Hardisty 1-3-5; Isaiah Powell 1-0-3. TOTALS: 18-9-50.

3-pt. FG: Jusufi, 2; Maynard, 2; Powell.

Perhaps it’s a case of the post state tournament-clinching blues, but the Indians, for the first time this season, lost for the  second consecutive time when they were turned back by a desperate Torrington High School team, 58-54 in an Iron Division game on the Red Raiders’ home court on February 7.

Torrington, an injury-plagued team which came into the night with a 4-10 record and sorely in need of a string of victories in order to qualify for the CIAC party, got the jump in the first quarter, but with Moni Jusufi and Brian McWhirt leading the way, the Indians came back with a 19-point second quarter to take a 31-29 halftime lead.

After absorbing a blowout loss in their previous game at Naugatuck High School, the Indians were feeling better about themselves, as they carried a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

That’s where things got away, but not by much, as the Red Raiders. led by senior guard Justin Mattiello and sophomore Jacob Groebl, came all the way back and then held off the Indians, whose record dropped to 3-4 but still stood at a healthy 8-6 overall with plenty of time to get back on track.

Mattiello, who drilled home four of the Raiders’ six three-point field goals, finished with a game-high 19 points for Torrington while Groebl added 15 and junior forward Ben Smith was all over the court, scoring 10 points and a team-high 14 rebounds while also blocking seven shots.

Torrington’s big edge was on the boards, where they enjoyed a 33-26 advantage.

Jusufi, continuing a solid senior season, set the pace for the Indians with 15 points while McWhirt contributed 13 points; weighing in with nine points apiece were Danny Toroveci and Cam Guerrera, who did grab a team-leading six rebounds, one ahead of McWhirt and Toroveci.

                     1   2   3   4   T

Watertown    12 19 10 13  54

Torrington     13  16 11 18  58

C.J. Maynard 0-0-0; Moni Jusufi 6-1-15; Brian McWhirt 5-2-13; Danny Toroveci 3-3-9; Cam Guerrera 3-2-9; Matthew Hardisty 0-0-0; Peyton DeFeo 0-0-0; Isaiah Powell 0-0-0; Owen Munson 1-2-4; Sam Weidemier 2-0-4; Ian Cronin 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-10-54.

3-pt FG: Jusufi, 2; Guerrera, McWhirt.

Facing division leader Naugatuck High School on February 4, the Indians, coming off their tournament berth-clinching win over Wolcott, were firmly brought back to earth by the Greyhounds, who asserted themselves quickly in a 72-39 romp.

Naugy, which improved to 13-0 in league play and 14-0 overall, jumped out to a 21-14 lead after the first quarter, then pulled away to complete a season sweep of the two games between the teams (a 77-50 win on January 10).

Count Indians’ coach J. Paul Vance among the impressed with the powerhouse Greyhounds.

“Naugatuck is the best team I have seen; so I hope now that we have seen them twice, we can get back to playing hard and together,” he said after his vastly-improved team dropped to 8-5. 

Cam Guerrera led the Indians with 12 points, while Brian McWhirt added 11 and C.J. Maynard and Moni Jusufi scored five points apiece.

                     1   2    3   4   T

Watertown    14 10   6   9  39

Naugatuck    21 19 13 19  72

C.J. Maynard 2-1-5; Moni Jusufi 2-0-5; Brian McWhirt 3-4-11; Cam Garcia 1-0-2; Danny Toroveci 1-1-3; Cam Guerrera 5-2-12; Matthew Hardisty 0-1-1; Peyton DeFeo 0-0-0; Isaiah Powell 0-0-0; Sam Weidemier 0-0-0; Ian Cronin 0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-9-39.

3-pt FG: Jusufi, McWhirt.

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