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Just a few games removed from a victory after which Coach Jeremy O’Connell was touting his team’s development, the Newtown High School girls’ basketball team suffered a loss that left the team leader questioning his team’s fortitude.
“We’re not tough enough to play in the SWC right now,” O’Connell said after his team saw visiting Bethel pull away for a 51-38 win, on January 3. “They’re one of the better teams in the SWC and we couldn’t compete tonight.”
The Wildcats improved to 7-1 overall.
Things really aren’t all that bad for the Nighthawks. They’ve alternated wins and losses to begin the year with a 3-3 mark and, based on how things have unfolded this winter, they stand to keep that trend going when winless Stratford visits on Friday, January 6, for a 7 pm tipoff.
“We have a ton of work to do. The pieces are there and we need to develop them to be able to handle the varsity level,” O’Connell said.
After Newtown defeated Masuk of Monroe 41-40 on December 20, the team’s third game of the campaign, O’Connell talked about the positive direction in which his overall young team was headed.
Newtown has a lot of new-to-varsity faces in the lineup this season, but O’Connell wasn’t cutting any slack following a second-half collapse against the Wildcats.
The Hawks led 14-12 after one quarter of play and trailed just 28-25 at halftime. The Wildcats, sparked by a tenacious rebounding and overall get-after-it effort, seized control for a 37-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Granted, the Cats took control, but the Hawks didn’t help their cause by missing several in-close shots, open outside looks, and free throws; the only Newtown points of the quarter came on a Carolina Stubbs putback with 4:50 to play in the stanza, making the score 32-27.
Down 40-29 early in the fourth quarter, the Nighthawks showed some life as Nicki DaPra and Cailin Wilson drained back-to-back 3-pointers. Just two minutes into the stanza it was a five-point game, but the Hawks got no closer.
Newtown had the ball and chances to get the deficit down to three or two, but couldn’t capitalize. Olyvia Shaw’s steal on the defensive end gave Newtown some hope, trailing 43-35, but there seemed to be a lid on the rim for Newtown in the second half.
O’Connell noted that the Wildcats seemed to want it more, ripping 50-50 balls away and forcing turnovers — reflective of what the generally tough Nighthawks do to frustrate opponents. Bethel hit its free throws, and Newtown did not, O’Connell added.
The Wildcats were 16 of 22 from the foul line, and the Hawks went just 5 of 12 from the charity stripe.
DaPra led all scorers in the game with 17 points, 14 of which came in the first half. DaPra hit a trio of 3-pointers in the game, and Wilson drained two from downtown. Wilson and Rylee Mulligan both dropped in six points, and Shaw added four.
Following the Stratford contest, the Hawks are away from home four a couple of weeks, beginning with a Tuesday, January 10, visit to Brookfield to take on a Bobcat squad that has suffered just one loss, an overtime setback to Immaculate of Danbury, beginning at 7 pm.