It may be very early in the campaign, but it’s never too soon for a team to get its first win, especially with a fairly new roster on the court. Newtown High School’s girls’ basketball team, in its second game of the season, pulled away to defeat visiting Immaculate of Danbury 51-36 on December 16 — a victory Coach Jeremy O’Connell wasn’t about to downplay.
“I think it was a huge confidence-booster for all the kids in the program,” said O’Connell, adding that an early win is key for new-to-varsity team members to see their hard work in preseason practices pay off.
The Nighthawks, who feature a mostly new-look roster after the loss of five graduates, turned an early-third quarter tie into a lead as large as 16 points by utilizing a stifling full-court press and quick transition buckets to seize control.
Mali Klorczyk snapped a 24-all deadlock with a 3-pointer and the Nighthawks never looked back. Sarah Lynch, after an Immaculate hoop, converted steal into 3-point play the old-fashioned way as she scored, was fouled, and added a free throw to make it 30-26 with 3:10 to go in the third.
Newtown went on a 9–0 run to end the third. Haley Ryan hit a 3-pointer, Klorczyk drained a jumper and, following a steal, scored on a layup for a 37-28 cushion. Mary Joe Rossi worked hard down low to get a rebound and score on a put-back, and it was 39-28 after three quarters. Cassie Eksrtom’s put-back got things started in the fourth, and Klorczyk tacked on two more points to cap a 13-0 run and make it 43-28.
Klorczyk finished with a game-best 17 points, Lynch scored 14, Ekstrom had nine, Kelly Merrick scored four, and Ryan and Rossi had three each.
The Hawks managed to put some late-game distance between themselves and their opponents after Lauralton Hall of Milford did the same to Newtown. In the December 11 season opener, visiting Lauralton saw Newton overcome a 14-5 deficit after one quarter to take a one-point halftime lead. NHS led by four heading into the fourth before Carly Fabri dropped in 12 of her 20 points, and two-thirds of her team’s fourth quarter total to lead the visitors to victory.
“I think we tried to prevent any kid from Immaculate doing that tonight,” O’Connell said after the Immaculate contest.
The coach liked what he saw — for the most part — in game number two. “When we actually pressed, we pressed well,” he said.
Too many turnovers kept Immaculate in the game for too long, and O’Connell would like to see his team improve in possessing the ball.
One thing the coach has to be pleased with is balanced scoring in the early going. He said during the preseason that the Hawks are looking for their go-to scorer but that he’s be perfectly happy if he had several players scoring in or close to double figures on a nightly basis. So far, so good. A trio of Hawks dropped in nine or more against Immaculate after five registered between six and 12 in the opener.
Ekstrom led Newtown with a dozen points against Lauralton, Rossi was also in double figures with ten, and Lynch, Ryan, and Merrick had eight, seven, and six respectively.
Newtown returns to the court with a tough task of trying to take down challenging nonconference foe Farmington at 7 pm on Friday, December 20. It’s the opener of the Threes For Charity Tournament at Newtown High. The next day, the tourney continues with NHS hosting Saddle River from New Jersey for a 4 pm tipoff.