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Newtown High School’s girls’ basketball team erased a 21-16 halftime deficit, built a late 12-point lead, and held on for a 41-40 victory over visiting Masuk of Monroe, on December 20.
Rylee Mulligan led all scorers with a dozen points, Nicki DaPra had seven, Olyvia Shaw and Cailin Wilson each dropped in six, Cyleigh Wilson had five, Kira Smith added four, and Carolina Stubbs tacked on a free throw.
DaPra and Kira Smith each grabbed six rebounds, and Shaw had five boards. Shaw also had a block and a steal, and Kira Smith came away with a steal.
“I think we grew up a lot tonight,” said Newtown Coach Jeremy O’Connell, whose Nighthawks are a mostly young and inexperienced group.
Newtown improved to 2-1, having beaten Danbury and fallen to St Joseph of Trumbull before dropping the Masuk Panthers to 1-2.
“In the first game everything worked so it was easy. In the second game nothing worked. In the first half tonight nothing worked and in the second half we got to a spot where we were playing varsity basketball and it was fun to watch,” O’Connell said.
“We put ourselves in position to take and make good shots,” O’Connell said.
The Nighthawks outscored the Panthers 15-5 in the third quarter to seize a 31-26 advantage heading into the fourth, and built on the lead behind strong defense and accurate shooting.
Mulligan, who scored all of her points in the second half, dropped in back-to-back baskets to open the fourth-quarter scoring. DaPra’s putback answered a Masuk free throw for a 37-27 lead. After the teams traded points, Shaw’s hoop with 3:40 remaining made it 41-29.
The Panthers ended the game on an 11-0 run, sparked by a trio of 3-pointers, and had the final possession with a chance to take a late lead or perhaps earn the win, but couldn’t get a shot away in time.
Masuk made just four baskets from inside the 3-point line, and hit seven shots from downtown. The Panthers were 11 of 17 from the free throw line, and the Hawks were 5 for 16, missing some freebees down the stretch with a chance to ice the game.
Masuk played some tough defense and forced some Newtown turnovers late to help it chip away at the deficit. The Nighthawks were also strong defensively, and held the Panthers without a fourth-quarter field goal until the final three minutes when Masuk had its long range barrage.
“We have a ton to work on but I’m very happy with how we are making strides in a positive direction,” O’Connell said.
Masuk Coach Mike Collins credited the Hawks for playing a solid game, adding “they’re a well-coached team.”
The Nighthawks are home for the Threes For Sandy Hook tournament, Thursday, December 22 and Friday December 23. They’ll host Cromwell on Thursday, at 7 pm, and play either Pomperaug of Southbury or Hillhouse of New Haven the next day, at 5 or 7 pm.