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Seeking its first win of the campaign, Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team certainly put in a thorough effort against Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport, in the consolation game of the Staples High Holiday Tournament in Westport, on December 29. The Nighthawks, however, came up short, 59-56, and fell to 0-4 this campaign.
Evan Eggleston led the Nighthawks with 18 points, and Tucker Garrity scored 15. The Nighthawks had eight players register points as Derek Ivey and Nick Weiland both dropped in six; Sam Grossano, Tom Cotton, and Ryan Escoda each had three; and Todd Petersen added two.
Petersen had four rebounds and four steals; Grossano logged six rebounds, four steals, and three assists; Weiland pulled down five rebounds and dished out a trio of assists; and Garrity compiled six boards, a pair of assists, and a steal.
The game was even at 31 at halftime, and Kolbe never trailed in the second half despite a persistent comeback effort on the part of the Hawks.
Newtown’s defense kept it in the game in the third quarter. The Hawks didn’t score on a field goal in the second half until the final half minute of the third, when Garrity scored a basket off an inbound under the basket. That made the score 40-37 in favor of Kolbe heading to the fourth quarter.
The Hawks got four points at the foul line in the third. This game wasn’t overly-physical but lots of hand-check fouls left both teams in foul trouble and in the bonus with plenty of time left.
Kolbe built a 45-38 lead before the Hawks clawed closer. An Eggleston free throw followed by a baseline drive and bucket by Weiland, made possible by Garrity’s offensive rebound, pulled the Hawks to within four with 5:26 to play.
The Cougars got the next four points on free throws for a 49-41 advantage just 29 seconds later. Eggleston’s long-range 3-pointer from beyond the left elbow made it a five-point game. Four more Kolbe foul shots were answered by an Eggleston shot from downtown, making the score 53-47 with 3:28 left.
A Grossano steal gave the Hawks a chance to chip away and Newtown had two in-close chances to score but didn’t capitalize.
Down 54-47, Ivey scored down low with 2:17 left, and Newtown’s full-court press forced a turnover. But an immediate offensive foul on Newtown gave the ball back to Kolbe and the Hawks fell behind by seven again.
Another Ivey bucket made the score 56-51 with 1:33 to play. Petersen’s steal led to Garrity’s drive and banker off the glass, giving the Hawks hope, as they were within 56-53 with 1:20 left. Kolbe got the next three points, and a 3-pointer by Garrity capped the scoring just before time ran out.
“The team will not quit. They’ll play hard the whole way through,” said Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch, noting that the difference in the game was his team’s missed opportunities coupled with Kolbe’s accurate late-game foul shooting.
“In the second half I thought we had excellent looks at the basket that did not fall,” Tallcouch said.
The Cougars were 17 of 26 from the line in the game, and hit nine of their first 12 final-quarter freebees until a pair of late misses that didn’t matter.
The Newtown coach pointed out that his overall young team was competitive in most of its games and easily could be 3-1 or 2-2 to begin the year.
“What we need to do now is buckle down and learn to win. It’s going to take a little bit of experience,” Tallcouch said.
The Hawks are well on their way to being ready to turn the corner, Tallcouch believes, given his squad has encountered some tough competition from the FCIAC: Fairfield Ludlowe, Norwalk, and Wilton, the latter of which defeated the Hawks in the opener of the Staples tourney. Despite the winless start, Newtown hasn’t come out of the first four games empty-handed.
“We came out battle-tested. I feel that’s going to be good for us moving forward,” Tallcouch said.
Newtown will get back to game action after the calendar flips into 2017, for a Friday, January 6 visit to Masuk of Monroe, beginning at 7 pm.
After the Masuk game, the Hawks are home to take on Brookfield the following Tuesday, January 10, also at 7 pm. The Nighthawks have another clash with an FCIAC foe when they travel to Stamford the next night for a 5:15 pm tipoff, and then have a rematch with Kolbe, when the Cougars visit on Friday, January 13, at 7 pm.
“I think the intensity going into that game is going to be sky high,” Tallcouch anticipates. “I feel good going into the New Year.”