It was only a matter of time before the hardworking Nighthawks came out on the winning end. After four close-call setbacks, Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team pulled out a nail-biting victory, edging visiting Trumbull 63-61 for its first win of the season, on January 4.
Maybe it took the turn of the calendar — this was Newtown’s first clash of the New Year — perhaps it was the matchup, or a fortuitous bounce or rim-roller here or there. In the eyes of Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch, whose squad lost games by two, four, and nine (on two occasions) points, his team may have just needed to find a find a way to pull through in a tight battle.
“We’ve got to learn how to win games and tonight we learned how to win a close game,” said Tallcouch, adding that his players dug deep and displayed fortitude to come out on top against a challenging Trumbull team.
The game featured 16 lead changes and seven ties, and was up for grabs until the final horn. The Eagles, who had beaten tough FCIAC rival Trinity Catholic of Stamford, fell to 1-2 overall when Matt Turner’s buzzer-beating 3-point try clanked off the rim, sparking a Newtown celebration.
“It’s always good to get a win but to get a win against a quality FCIAC school, I’m so proud of them,” Tallcouch said.
Newtown shook off an intentional foul call against Troy Frangione, with the game tied 52-52 midway through the fourth quarter. The Eagles hit one of the two free throws and were stopped by the Hawks on the retained possession.
Jake Ball finished a fast-break play for a basket despite being fouled. Ball couldn’t convert the 3-point play but had already given the Hawks a 54-53 advantage with 2:45 to go. Turner gave the Eagles a 55-54 advantage and Frangione responded almost immediately with a clutch 3-pointer from the corner making it 57-55 NHS with 2:21 to play. That was the game’s final lead change.
After the Hawks thwarted the Eagles, Frangione fed Mike Davis for an inside bucket and a 59-55 lead with 1:50 left. Brian LeBlanc hit a clutch front-end one and one free throw, and added the second, for a 61-55 cushion with 44 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock.
The Eagles weren’t about to go away quietly. Eddie McElroy hit a 3-pointer to trim Trumbull’s deficit in half with 33 seconds to go. Newtown broke the full-court press and Davis scored to make it a two-possession game again, 63-58, with 22 seconds left. Turner hit a clutch 3-pointer to make it a two-point game in the waning seconds. Newtown couldn’t ice the game at the free throw line, giving the Eagles possession with 8 seconds to go, setting up Turner’s bid to win it as time expired.
Tallcouch was pleased with the way his team executed defensively, and noted that some key 3-pointers helped the cause. He added that the Hawks got contributions from up and down the lineup.
Davis recorded 18 points, Julian Dunn had 15, Ball dropped in a dozen, and Frangione had six for the Hawks. LeBlanc and Chase Wurtz, who had a big shot from downtown in the final quarter, both had five. Harrison Depuy added two in the win.
“Everyone executed, everyone scored, everyone did their jobs,” Dunn said.
There was definitely a sense of relief among the Nighthawks after nearly getting the job done in previous battles to begin the campaign.
“It felt good. We were really close all season,” Dunn said. “It just feels great to get one — that’s a good team.”
“It was good just to get one,” Frangione added. “It was good to finish a game.”
Frangione said the Hawks were looking to carry the energy from the victory into upcoming contests, beginning with a rematch with Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport, which overcame a late-game deficit to eventually pull away for 59-50 win over Newtown on December 30. The teams were scheduled to get reacquainted on January 6 in Bridgeport.
“We had ’em last game and we just let it go at the end,” Frangione recalled.
After the Kolbe game, Newtown is scheduled to play back-to-back home tilts when Abbott Tech and Brookfield visit for 7 pm tip-offs, January 10 and 14, respectively.