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Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team qualified for the South-West Conference tournament with a 67-53 win against visiting Stratford on February 20.
The Nighthawks earned the eighth seed and will visit No. 1 Notre Dame-Fairfield in the Friday, February 23 quarterfinals, beginning at 7 pm.
“I’m really proud. The goal all year it was to make the SWC and States and we did it,” Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch said.
Newtown finishes the regular season with a record of 11-9 overall and 6-7 in the SWC. Stratford dropped to 11-9 and 7-6 in the SWC.
Entering the game, the Hawks had the same records as New Milford and Joel Barlow of Redding, but had earned wins against both teams, and held tiebreakers against them, meaning a win guaranteed an SWC berth.
With this situation fresh in their minds, the Hawks came out strong, winning the tip and scoring a basket within the first minute. On the defensive end, Robert DiSibio drew a foul, setting himself up to knock down a 3-pointer on the other end, making it 5-2. About two minutes later, Riley Ward went to the line and made both free throws, putting Newtown up five with 5:12 left in the first quarter. Taming Stratford’s attempt to take back the lead, Todd Petersen came up with a block, and later a nice pass to assist DiSibio on his layup, making it 11-8 with 2:30 left in the quarter. Ward added a layup for a 13-10 lead after one quarter.
After a scoreless minute to start the second quarter, Stratford was called for a three second violation that led to Newtown extending the lead to five. Stratford began pressing midway through the quarter. However, Newtown was able to take advantage of its time spent practicing to break the press, scoring to make it 17-12.
“Practice makes perfect. We worked on it for three days,” Tallcouch said.
Stratford got to within 19-16 before DiSibio knocked down two free throws. Continuing with the momentum, Evan Eggleston made a nice move to get past his defender to score, making it 23-16 with 3:49 left in the half. Nick Weiland had a 3-point play to make it 26-18. Ward continued the successful night offensively to close out the first half with a 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds, giving Newtown a 33-22 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, Petersen converted a 3-point play, giving Newtown a 12-point lead. Two minutes later, Weiland came up with a steal and a nice behind the back move that that set up Petersen to knock down two free throws, extending the lead to 14. With a minute left in the quarter, Max Bloomquist came off the bench and scored on two consecutive shots, bringing the score to 44-31 at the end of the third quarter.
Newtown’s momentum continued early in the fourth quarter before Stratford got to within eight. But Stratford’s efforts stopped short when Ryan Escoda hit a 3-pointer to bring the score to 55-44. Less than a minute later, Peterson had a huge block that led to another two points for Ward. After his assist, Petersen scored Newtown’s next three baskets, leading the Hawks to a 64-49 lead with 1:39 left in the game.
Petersen scored 19 points, and Ward and DiSibio had 16 each. Weiland added seven for the Nighthawks.
DiSibio and Petersen had seven rebounds each. Newtown went 9-for-10 from the foul line.
Newtown was eliminated from state playoff contention by Stratford in last year’s regular-season finale.
Top-seeded Notre Dame went unbeaten at 20-0 (13-0).