STRATFORD — In the second half of the March 1 South-West Conference quarterfinal-round game, held at Bunnell High School, Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team went toe to toe with Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport. Unfortunately, for the Nighthawks, they’d dug themselves too deep of an opening-half hole for a second-half back-and-forth battle to be enough to advance and move on.
Kolbe, the No. 5 seed, which had split a pair of regular-season games with the Nighthawks, rolled to a 35-18 halftime lead en route to a 74-50 triumph over No. 4 Newtown.
“The key was to try to get the 17-point lead at least down to ten — just chisel away, chisel away,” Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch said of his team’s hopes to get back into the game and have a chance to complete a comeback in the fourth quarter.
Kolbe kept making its shots, however, and the best Newtown could do was trade baskets for much of the second half.
“They refused to give us the opportunity. They beat us in every facet of the game,” Tallcouch said.
When the shots didn’t fall — for either team — Kolbe’s players seemed to always be there for the rebounds. And the Cougars didn’t miss too many looks on their way to scoring the most points the Hawks have surrendered in a contest all year long.
That’s something Tallcouch believes his team can correct in the upcoming Class LL state tournament (seedings and matchups to be determined; check casciac.org for details).
“We didn’t really defend their shots. We didn’t get a hand in their face,” Tallcouch said of his team’s defense.
This game had the makings of a close one on paper. The Cougars and Nighthawks were both 10-4 in conference play during the regular slate, and the Hawks had been involved in a dozen games decided by nine points or less in their 20 games played overall. Then again, who knew given what transpired when these two squads met the first two times around. Kolbe had beaten Newtown by nine in late December, then the Hawks ran away with a 77-55 triumph less than a week later.
The second rematch belonged to the Cougars as Ian Gardner (24 points) and Tyler Underwood (20) led the Kolbe offensive attack. Julian Dunn scored 20 points and Brian LeBlanc, on a handful of 3-pointers, netted 15 for the Hawks.
Newtown was at a disadvantage with Mike Davis, who along with Dunn, provide a bulk of the height and size Newtown possesses, sidelined with an injury sustained late in the campaign. Despite this, Tallcouch thought his team would be more competitive.
“We’re going to have to come out with a little more commitment — a little more fight — in states,” Tallcouch said.
The Newtown coach is proud of what his team has accomplished on the whole this winter. After a rough 0-4 start, the team members came together and reeled off win after win on their way to a 12-8 overall mark.
“These kids have given me everything all year,” he said. “I’m proud of this team.”