Don’t judge the Newtown High School girls’ basketball team by the way things go in the beginning of the season. At least, that’s the message Coach Jeremy O’Connell wants to get across. His Nighthawks lost five seniors, all of whom saw substantial playing time, in the offseason, and the somewhat new-look squad jumps into the proverbial fire with a season opener against Class LL state runner-up Lauralton Hall of Milford, followed by dates with a tough Immaculate of Danbury squad, Class L champion Farmington, a strong Manchester team, and a solid squad from New Jersey as part of a tournament.
“We’re going to take some lumps early and I think we’re going to be a very different team down the stretch,” O’Connell said. “We’re hoping to be in the hunt for SWCs.”
A South-West Conference championship won’t come easily with the likes of Lauralton, Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport, Notre Dame-Fairfield, and Pomperaug of Southbury — among others — expected by the coach to pose challenges.
Newtown, which went 13-7 in the regular season a year ago, lost in the first round of both the conference and Class LL playoffs. O’Connell expects his Nighthawks to go deeper in both tournaments this year, and will look for a go-to scorer to emerge, but would be more than happy if instead the scoring is evenly distributed and six or seven players average around double figures. “I’ll take that in a heartbeat,” he said.
Year in and year out, the Nighthawks pride themselves on quickness, athleticism, and endurance being strengths and that should continue, O’Connell anticipates.
The senior captains are Cassie Ekstrom, Mary Joe Rossi, and Sarah Lynch. Other key team members the Hawks will turn to are juniors Eliza Eggleston, Caroline Chocholak, and Micaela Nowacki, as well as sophomores Kelly Merrick, Mali Klorczyk, Haley Ryan, and Lauren Wilcox.
The Nighthawks kept it close but came up short in a 50-45 setback to Lauralton on December 11. Newtown, after entertaining Immaculate of Danbury on December 16, will host Farmington, Manchester, and Saddle River from New Jersey in the Threes For Charity Tournament, December 20–21.
“We’ll see where we are right away,” O’Connell said.