FAIRFIELD — Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team is proving to be quite a resilient and competitive group. The Nighthawks suffered a tough-to-swallow 63-59 loss to host Notre Dame-Fairfield on January 17, the team’s fifth loss by nine or fewer points, after reeling off four consecutive victories in the wake of a four-game slide to begin the season.
“They compete — they play hard,” Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch said after the Notre Dame game. “It’s all you can ask for.”
Well, maybe the Hawks could have asked for some better fortunes in the foul department. The Lancers went to the free throw line for 26 attempts, more than doubling Newtown’s 11 trips to the charity stripe (Notre Dame was 17 of 26 and NHS went 7 of 11).
A key moment in the game came early in the fourth quarter when Newtown center Julian Dunn fouled out of the contest. The Lancers were in the bonus situation, so Jaylen Jennings was awarded a one-and-one free throw opportunity with his team clinging to a 51-49 lead with 6:11 to play. Dunn was whistled for a technical foul, giving Jennings two extra foul shots, and giving the Lancers the ball on the ensuing in bounds play. He sank all of the foul shots for a 55-49 lead.
The Nighthawks couldn’t recover, although they hung close despite losing Dunn who had scored all 13 of his team’s first-quarter points and finished a game best 23.
“It was the way the game went,” Tallcouch said of Dunn’s early effort giving way to his premature exit. “Obviously he’s a huge part of our offensive and defensive schemes.”
If there is any consolation for the Hawks it’s that they played hard and got some experience that could prove to be valuable later on this season.
“If you want to make the playoffs and you want to advance this is the type of game, we need to be able to play in,” Tallcouch said.
Newtown trailed 34-25 at halftime and never managed to claim the lead despite closing the gap multiple times in the third and fourth quarters.
A Brian LeBlanc 3-pointer brought the Hawks to within 37-35 midway through the third. After an ND free throw, Mike Davis scored to make it a one-point difference with 3:43 left in the third, and Newtown was on the verge of seizing some control. The Lancers went on a 9-4 run for a 47-41 lead before Newtown’s Jeremy Doski converted a 3-point play to slice the lead in half with 47 seconds to play in the third.
Newtown again got to within a mere point when Troy Frangione opened the fourth-quarter scoring. The Lancers pushed the lead to four on a Jennings 3-point play only to see Jake Ball sink a 3-pointer to pull Newtown back to within one yet again.
“They weren’t going to give up. They’re a very well-coached team,” Notre Dame Coach Vin Laczkoski said.
Davis scored 11 points, Frangione and Doski both had seven, LeBlanc scored six, and Ball added five in a return to the lineup after missing a brief stint.
Newtown was scheduled to host Pomperaug of Southbury on January 21 but anticipated snow bumped the game to a 1 pm start on Saturday, January 25. The Hawks hit the road to take on Oxford on January 24, and New Fairfield on January 28. They’re slated to return home to take on Joel Barlow of Redding on January 31; all of the games, with exception of the Pomperaug makeup contest, are 7 pm starts.