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Fighting to bolster their South-West Conference playoff hopes, Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team members may have missed out on an opportunity in a 67-59 loss to visiting Pomperaug of Southbury, on February 9. In the process, however, the Nighthawks perhaps lifted their confidence for when they head into the state playoffs.
Newtown chipped away at a double-digit deficit, eventually getting it down to just two points early in the fourth quarter, before succumbing to Pomperaug, led by Will McDonald and his 28 points.
The Hawks gave the SWC Colonial Division-leading Panthers a scare to no avail.
“When they needed a basket they answered. Every time, they answered,” Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch said.
The Nighthawks fell to 9-8 overall and 4-6 in the conference; Pomperaug improved to 14-3 and 8-2.
Pomperaug led 34-23 at halftime.
Newtown began the second half on a 6-0 run chock full of highlights: A great play by Nick Weiland in which he saved his own knock-away while leaping out of bounds near midcourt, and managed to keep the ball in play, leading to Evan Eggleston’s fast-break basket; and Todd Petersen’s steal, full-court drive, and slam dunk, making it 34-29.
The Panthers answered with an 8-0 run to push the lead to 13, and went ahead by as many as 15, when it was 47-32 with 2:10 to go in the stanza.
Newtown ended the third quarter with an 8-0 run of its own, sparked by a pair of Riley Ward 3-pointers. It was 47-40 Panthers heading to the fourth.
Robert DiSibio’s step-back 3-pointer opened the final frame scoring, making it 47-43, but McDonald countered with one of his five shots from downtown at the other end to reinstate the seven-point advantage.
A Disibio 3-pointer got Newtown within 50-48 with 6:04 to play.
McDonald mirrored at the other end. His long-range shot swirled around the rim before falling through.
Riley Ward’s drive and score made it 53-50 just before the middle stages of the quarter, but Newtown got no closer as the Panthers went on a 6-0 run before the teams traded hoops down the stretch.
“We didn’t give up. We competed. I’m very proud of these kids for coming out in the second half. We challenged them and they responded,” Tallcouch said.
Tallcouch credited the Panthers for overcoming Newtown’s defensive scheme switches, whether it was man-to-man or zone.
“They really adjusted well. They shared the ball very well,” Tallcouch said.
Pomperaug Coach David Yachtis credited the Nighthawks for having solid players “that can get to the basket, that can defend, that can knock down threes.”
Yachtis added that his team generally has shooting woes in Newtown’s gymnasium, but he was pleased with the accuracy on this night.
The Panthers needed just about all of their baskets to avoid the upset.
“Newtown’s a quality team. That’s a really good win for us,” Yachtis said.
Ward had 13 points, and Petersen, DiSibio, and Weiland all poured in a dozen. Eggleston scored ten in a well-balanced Nighthawk scoring spread.
Petersen added ten rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
Weiland had four rebounds and a pair of steals, and Ward handed out four assists.
Tallcouch has said every game is a tough one in the conference.
“There’s no night that you can take off. You’ve got to go out and play every game,” Tallcouch said.
Newtown’s ability to hang with some of the best in the SWC is something the team can reflect on for motivation when the playoffs roll around.
“We’ve been pointing back to the Immaculate game as well,” said Tallcouch, whose team took Immaculate to overtime before falling by two points earlier this season.
Immaculate was 12-4 and 7-2 heading into February 9 action.
The Hawks close out the regular slate against Bethel on Thursday, February 15, and Stratford on Tuesday, February 20; both are at home, beginning at 7 pm.