Locked in as the fifth seed in the South-West Conference playoffs, Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team had a lot less to lose than Bethel, its final opponent of the regular campaign, on February 25. Already out of the eight-team SWC playoff mix, the visiting Bobcats needed a win to qualify for the state tournament, and jumped out to an early 11-2 lead. Newtown, however, fought back for a slim halftime lead — 22-20 — before pulling away for a 64-45 triumph. “After losing two in a row I thought we needed to get into the SWCs on a high note and I think we did that tonight,” said Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch, whose team had dropped road games at Immaculate of Danbury and Bunnell of Stratford, February 21 and 22.
Newtown High School’s dance team, only four years ago, had club sport status. Interest in the squad grew, and strong support from school officials, including Athletic Director Gregg Simon and Coach Cheryl Stenz, led to varsity status for the program. Commitment on the part of the athletes and coaches, and lots of hard work, has made it all pay off. Now, the girls are state champions. The dancers, fresh off South-West Conference Hip Hop and Jazz titles, captured the large school Jazz title in the February 22 competition at Hamden High School.
Credit the Nighthawks for showing plenty of fight. Newtown High School’s girls’ basketball team dug into a large deficit to make things a bit interesting down the stretch, but ultimately fell 43-33 to top-seeded Lauralton Hall of Milford in the South-West Conference tournament semifinals at Bethel High on February 25. The fifth-seeded Nighthawks, down 39-23 with three and a half minutes to play, chipped away to give themselves a chance, something Coach Jeremy O’Connell views as a sign of growth on the part of his team. “Our kids have bonded together and they play great together — and I’m proud of them,” said O’Connell, noting that his squad, early on in the campaign, might have let the game get way out of control once it was in a double-digit hole.
Newtown High School’s wrestling team celebrated its first state championship in the program’s history by dethroning Danbury to claim the Class LL state title at Trumbull High on February 22. The Nighthawks demonstrated just how important the team element of the individual sport of wrestling is. Danbury had five weight division champions and Newtown had two – James Leuci in the 132-pound weight class and Anthony Falbo at 152. The Nighthawks, however, racked up significant points by getting strong contributions throughout the lineup with nine grapplers to get deep in the bracket and finish among the top six in their respective divisions.
MILFORD – Newtown High School’s girls’ basketball team avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Pomperaug of Southbury – and did so in convincing fashion – in the quarterfinal round of the South-West Conference tournament on February 22. The fifth-seeded Nighthawks toppled No. 4 Pomperaug 66-47 on the court of tourney top seed Lauralton Hall to advance to the semifinals. Cassie Ekstrom led the offensive charge with 27 points, 15 of which came on a handful of 3-pointers. Ekstrom also had a dozen rebounds. Sarah Lynch dropped in nine points and dished out 12 assists. She also had four rebounds and three steals. Kelly Merrick and Mary Joe Rossi both had ten points, and Rossi pulled down five rebounds. Lauren Wilcox added four points and six boards.
Newtown High School’s girls’ basketball team hopes the third time is the charm. The Nighthawks will face a Pomperaug of Southbury team that they lost to twice during the regular season, in the quarterfinal round of the South-West Conference Tournament on Saturday, February 22. The teams will square off at 5 pm on the court of SWC top seed Lauralton Hall of Milford. The Nighthawks closed out the regular campaign with a Senior Night win over Bunnell of Stratford — 51-37 — in a rescheduled game on February 20. With the triumph, the Nighthawks finished with a 10-5 SWC record and locked up the fifth seed. The Pomperaug Panthers (11-4) are the fourth seed in the eight-team tourney.
Newtown High School’s gymnastics team placed second in the South-West Conference championship meet in New Milford on February 19. The Nighthawks scored 130.65 points and were narrowly edged out for first by host New Milford (130.9). Pomperaug of Southbury scored 127.3 points for a third-place finish, and Nonnewaug of Woodbury came in fourth with 123.1. Newtown’s Anna Jannott finished third in the all around with a cumulative score of 33.050.
Never mind head-to-head competitions. Mother Nature is having the biggest say in who wins and loses these days. And it’s been both teams “losing” (as in losing out) in given matchups thanks to hosts and visitors not getting a chance to play as a result of snowstorms. A winter that has had the schedulers making more changes than coaches make to their lineups in blowouts continues to be a snowy (and game-altering) one.
With eight finalists – including a trio of weight division champions – Newtown High School’s wrestling team certainly had a lot to be proud of at the South-West Conference championships at Pomperaug High on February 16. The Nighthawks, however, settled for a close runner-up finish to perennial powerhouse New Milford which retained its stranglehold on the SWC crown. New Milford scored 232 points with six champions, and a pair of second-place finishers, along with a third a pair of fourths. The Hawks, meanwhile, scored 223 as they came in with five second-place outcomes as well as four third-place finishes.