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In a battle of two of the South-West Conference’s top teams, Newtown High School’s girls’ basketball team posted a 47-45 win over the visiting Pomperaug of Southbury Panthers, on Senior Night, February 11. The game had been rescheduled from the night before due to anticipated snow.
Newtown improved to 15-4 overall and 10-2 in SWC play, and Pomperaug fell to 12-5 and 8-3.
The Nighthawks led almost the entire way – Pomperaug’s Maggie Lee gave the visitors their only lead of the night with a 3-pointer that capped a 12-0 run to begin the fourth quarter – and nailed down the win in the final seconds.
Nicki DaPra’s fourth 3-pointer of the game, with 2:08 left in the fourth – a bank shot from virtually straight on – gave Newtown its first points of the final period and got lead back on Newtown’s side, 43-41.
After the Panthers evened the score, deadlocking the score for the first time since the opening minutes, Newtown’s Rylee Mulligan drove and scored with a shot off the glass with 58 seconds left.
The Panthers got to within 45-44 on a free throw 12 seconds later. Newtown’s Cyleigh Wilson, after missing a pair of free throws with 27 seconds showing on the clock, came up with a key steal and rattled home two clutch foul shots with 20 seconds to go. Pomperaug only mustered a waning seconds foul shot and time ran out.
DaPra and Mulligan led the Newtown offense as they dropped in 16 and 13 points, respectively, and Cailin Wilson had eight. Olyvia Shaw and Jackie Matthews each scored four, and Cyleigh Wilson added the difference-making two points.
Mulligan had four assists; Shaw pulled down seven rebound, came away with four steals, and blocked a shot; Matthews had nine rebounds and two steals; DaPra and Cailin Wilson both came away with four rebounds; and Kelleher had two steals.
The Nighthawks led 28-20 at halftime and, after the Panthers scored on their first possession of the second half to trim the deficit to six, Newtown seemed to seize control.
Mulligan sank a 3-pointer and Alison Kelleher stole the ball in the front court, off the subsequent inbound play, then dove to the floor to save it after a knock-away, and got the ball to Shaw who distributed to DaPra for a 3-pointer and a 34-22 NHS lead. After a Pomperaug timeout Mulligan scored to stretch the lead to 36-22. The Hawks led 40-29 after three quarters of action.
Newtown Coach Jeremy O’Connell said he was thrilled to see his team put together three outstanding quarters and overcome five or six not so good minutes of play in the fourth to pull out the victory against a formidable foe.
“They’re always one of the best teams in the league. They’re well-coached, they have unbelievable players,” O’Connell said.
The Nighthawks still have one regular-season game remaining, when they visit Notre Dame-Fairfield (10-1 in the SWC) on Tuesday, February 14, beginning at 7 pm. They carry an eight-game winning streak into that contest.
“Watching them be a team and enjoy every moment of this together is fantastic,” O’Connell said.
Newtown will have a first-round home game in the SWC playoffs, which begin February 17, and the Hawks are hopeful of making a run, perhaps to the championship.
“That’s huge,” O’Connell said of the start on home court. “If we play with confidence and continue moving forward who knows?”