The Nighthawks seem to have opponents right where they want them when trailing. Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team has made a habit of erasing large deficits to scratch out close victories this season, the latest a 49-45 win over visiting Stratford on February 11.
Newtown trailed by six points at halftime and but eked out the win to improve to 10-6 overall and 8-2 in South-West Conference play.
Only a few days earlier, in a February 7 contest between two of the top teams in the SWC, the Nighthawks had host Weston right where they wanted the Trojans. In a game of runs and huge momentum swings, Newtown trailed by seven points late in the fourth quarter. The Nighthawks chipped away, but ultimately came up short in a 52-50 Weston win. Both teams came into the contest with identical conference records, and Weston walked away with an 8-1 mark (11-3 overall).
The Nighthawks, in their first 16 games, have been involved in 12 decided by nine points or less, including a four-point setback to unbeaten-in-the-SWC Notre Dame-Fairfield. What’s more, five of those tight battles have been two-point decisions. The Hawks hope for a chance at redemption against Weston in the upcoming conference tournament. Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch noted that the team will have to do a better job on the glass if there is a rematch. Weston got numerous second-chance points in this battle.
Tallcouch hopes his team continues to show the kind of resiliency it displays on any given night. Newtown outscored Stratford 27-17 second half. Stratford dropped to 9-7 overall and 4-6 in conference play. Records don’t seem to matter. As the Newtown coach has noted throughout the campaign, there are no easy nights in the SWC.
“Tough battle, but our kids never panic and know how to come back and close out games, especially in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter,” Tallcouch said. “Never easy, never pretty, but the kids get the job done.”
Newtown was clutch from the free throw line down the stretch in the win over Stratford, going 10 for 11 at the line in the final quarter.
Julian Dunn led the way with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Mike Davis added a dozen points and three blocks.
Davis hit four big free throws in the final minutes to bring his team back from a three-point deficit.
Newtown nearly worked the same sort of late-game magic at Weston despite trailing by large margins multiple times. The Hawks were behind 19-10 in the first half before using an 11-0 run to claim a two-point lead just 3:19 before the half. Back-to- back Davis 3-pointers gave the Hawks a 21-19 advantage. The teams exchanged leads and then Jeremy Doski beat the buzzer with a layup for a 25-22 halftime advantage for the visitors.
Brian LeBlanc hit a 3-pointer following a Davis block at the other end, and Newtown had a 30-24 lead early in the third. But then the Trojans put together a 13-0 run and finished the third period by outscoring the Hawks 15-2 for a 39-32 lead.
The Hawks trailed by as many as nine points in the final quarter. Doski sank a pair of free throws to pull Newtown to within 45-38 with 4:44 to go. After a LeBlanc free throw trimmed the lead to six, Dunn’s putback got the Hawks to within 45-41 with 2:39 showing on the scoreboard clock.
Weston expanded its lead to 49-42 with less than a minute to play, but Newtown wasn’t about to go down quietly. LeBlanc sank another 3 with 28 seconds left. The Hawks forced a quick turnover with pressure on the inbounds play, and Doski converted a shot down low to make it 49-47 with 23 seconds left. The Trojans hit three late foul shots to ice it. Troy Frangione drained a 3-pointer as time expired.
Dunn led Newtown with 17 points, and Davis and LeBlanc both had 11. Dunn led Newtown with 13 rebounds, Davis had nine boards and five blocked shots, and Frangione netted five assists.
Beginning with a Friday, February 14, home game against Masuk of Monroe (at 7 pm), the Hawks have four regular-season games remaining, including one against Bunnell of Stratford, which is 9-2 in SWC play and sits just one game in front of NHS in the conference’s Colonial Division.