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By Kim J. Harmon



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By Kim J. Harmon

If one of the most maddening things is sports is to watch a big lead evaporate late in game, then coaches, players and fans of Newtown High School sports must have been hopping mad over the last week.

uThe hockey team built up a 3-1 lead over New Fairfield last Saturday, only to see it disappear in the first nine minutes of the third period.

uThe girls’ basketball team built up a 42-29 lead over Masuk on Monday night, only to see it disappear in the final six minutes of the fourth period.

While the hockey team was able to scrape back and win the game in overtime on a goal by Sean LaPorta, the girls’ basketball team was not so lucky and was saddled with its first loss of the 2003-04 season.

Hey, these things happen.

For the second time in six games, the Newtown High School girls’ basketball team saw big fourth-quarter leads disappear in the wake of a fierce full court press. The first time – against Kolbe Cathedral in the season opener – the Lady Nighthawks managed to hang on.

The second time – against Masuk on Tuesday – they could not.

With the ‘Hawks (now 5-1) leading 42-29 and seemingly in control of the contest, just six minutes from winning the Masuk Holiday Tournament championship, it all fell apart. The Pantherettes roared back behind tournament MVP Michelle Martinik (22 points) and escaped with a 53-50 win.

“We played well in the third quarter,” said head coach Tim Salem, “but we lost our composure in the fourth. We made some poor choices against the full court press and you can’t do that if you expect to beat a good team. Fortunately, it’s early and we can learn from this.”

After Jacky Curran banked one in off a nifty feed from Kelley Haines early in the fourth quarter the ‘Hawks had their biggest lead of the game at 42-29. But Martinik, who had scored her 1,000th career point just a moment before, tossed in a basket and then made a steal downcourt that turned into an easy basket at the other end of the floor.

And the Pantherettes were off and running.

When Haines (17 points) dropped in a pair of free throws with only a few minutes left, it halted a 10-0 Masuk run and kept the ‘Hawks on top by five, 44-39. Ashley Larocque (18 points, 14 of those in a strong second half effort) tossed in a short jumper with 1:44 to go and the ‘Hawks remained on top by three, 48-45.

But the Pantherettes tied the score on a basket by Alexis Bates and subsequent foul and then went ahead by two with 25 seconds left off a fastbreak. When they canned a free throw with 18.8 seconds to go and took a three-point lead, 51-48, time had run out on the ‘Hawks.

Still, Haines had a shot to tie the game at the buzzer but her three-pointer fell short.

Last Friday, in the tournament opener, the ‘Hawks had a much easier time in a 57-42 win over Simsbury – despite the stellar play of Simsbury sophomore Sam Brigham, who did a wonderful job denying Haines on the offensive end.

But even though Haines was held to 11 points on four field goals (and no treys), the ‘Hawks got solid performances from Curran (10 points), Julie Iwanicki (8 points), Larocque (10 points) and – especially – Siobhan Cooper (10 points).

“Siobhan has been getting better and better. Her past couple of practices have been outstanding,” said coach Salem. “It’s good that we had a lot of people to step up. That’s one thing we have tried to focus on – spread out the scoring.”

The ‘Hawks will host Immaculate on Saturday at 7 pm and then travel to Notre Dame on Tuesday, January 6 (Notre Dame being the team that knocked Newtown out of the South-West Conference playoffs a year ago).

NOTE: Jacky Curran and Kelley Haines were named to the Masuk Holiday All-Tournament Team. Haines averaged 14 points in the two games while Curran averaged 10 with solid play on both ends of the floor.

Newtown        13    11   14   12   - 50

Masuk                 7    10   10   26   - 53

NEWTOWN (50): Haines 4 7-10 17, Larocque 8 2-2 18, Iwanicki 1 0-0 2, Curran 4 2-2 10, Logan 1 1-2 3, Filler 0 0-0 0, Foehrenbach 0 0-0 0, Cooper 0 0-0 0 (Totals: 18 12-16 50). MASUK (53): Martinik 7 7-10 22, Corchard 6 2-2 14, Bria 1 0-0 2, Bates 2 1-1 5, Williams 0 0-0 0, Caulfield 0 6-6 6, Tartaglia 1 2-6 4, Kramer 0 0-0 0 (Totals: 17 18-25 53).

Three-pointers: Haines (N) 2, Martinik (M).

Simsbury        10    11     9   12   - 42

Newtown        15    13   11   18   - 57

NEWTOWN (57): Iwanicki 2 5-6 8, Curran 3 4-7 10, Logan 2 3-4 7, Larocque 4 2-2 10, Filler 0 0-0 0, Cooper 5 0-0 10, Haines 4 3-4 11, O’Connor 0 0-0 0 (Totals: 20 17-24 57). SIMSBURY (42): Albergo 0 0-2 0, Mikkelson 0 0-0 0, Fuhr 1 0-0 3, Litke 0 0-0 0, Johnson 8 5-6 21, Brigham 3 5-9 11, McCulloch 2 0-0 4, Fuschs 1 0-0 3 (Totals: 15 10-15 42).

Three-pointers: Fuchs (S), Fuhr (S).

Just a few inches.

Steve Giacolone was just a few inches away from getting pinned in the 125-pound weight class on Monday morning and if he had gotten pinned then the Newtown High School wrestling team’s 38-30 win over Stratford would have never come to pass.

But Giacolone – already close to a near fall – somehow held strong in the final 45 seconds against Joe Pesce of Stratford and escaped with a narrow, 4-3 win. A pin would have put the Nighthawks in a 12-point hole, but the win put them within three points of the Red Devils and with Jeff Bray (pin), Dan Kearns (forfeit) and Justin Bass (decision) coming up with wins in three of the final four weight classes, the ‘Hawks earned their second win of the 2003-04 season.

After a sub-par performance at the Danbury Invitational over the weekend (finishing 12th out of 15 teams), the ‘Hawks needed to rebound and were able to do that on Monday.

The match opened with the 152-pound weight class, where Brendan O’Connor was pinned by Washington Gordon in the first period. Skye Perry (160) got the ‘Hawks on the board with a 19-10 major decision over Camile Ochoa while Alex Read (171) put the ‘Hawks on top with a second-period pin of Jordan Bell.

Edmund Breitling (189) made short work of Mike Gallego to stake the ‘Hawks to a 16-6 lead, but the Red Devils came back with a win at 215, a pin at 275, a pin at 103 and a technical fall at 112 to take a 26-16 lead.

Mike Rambone, though, helped shift the momentum with an 11-0 major decision of Jessica Ray at 119. After Giacolone survived his bout with Pesce to trim the Stratford lead to three, Bray earned a 41-second pin at 130 to put the ‘Hawks ahead, 29-26. With the Kearns forfeit at 135, it looked as if the ‘Hawks had the match well in hand with a 35-26 lead.

There were only a few ways the Red Devils could capture the meet and one of those ways was with a major decision of Joe Sgammato at 140, which trimmed the Newtown lead down to five points. A pin of Bass at 145 would give the Red Devils the match, but Bass bested Tom Sulzicki, 7-2, to finish off the match.

The wrestlers will be at the Bristol Central Tournament on Saturday and will return home on Wednesday, January 7, to host Weston.

When it comes to overtime, it is best to take care of business as quickly as possible and Buzz LaPorta did that last Saturday as he lifted the Newtown High School hockey team to a 5-4 win over New Fairfield with a goal – his third – just 22 seconds into overtime.

The win halted a three-game slide for the Nighthawks.

“It’s nice to get back to .500,” said LaPorta, who now has eight goals to lead the ‘Hawks. “(Prior to overtime) we talked about just playing as hard as we would … you know, pep talk stuff.”

After having been summarily dismantled by Bethel/Brookfield (7-0) and Notre Dame of Fairfield (15-0) and then coming up short against Housatonic Valley Regional (5-3), the ‘Hawks were looking to get off to a quick start. But it was the Rebels who got off to a quick start, scoring a fluke goal just 35 seconds into the game.

For the rest of the period, the ‘Hawks generated little energy and little offense.

“We’re not really a first period team,” said LaPorta. “We got kind of sloppy, but we started to pick it up.”

Yes, in the second period the ‘Hawks did start to pick it up and it started with a goal by Blaise LaPorta just 17 seconds into a two-man advantage. Harrison Kass slipped a pass across the crease and Blaise flipped it home to tie the game.

Later in the second, Nick Harris took a puck off the boards, battled his way into the slot and fired home a goal to put the ‘Hawks ahead, 2-1. About 90 seconds later, Buzz blasted a shot from the blue line that surprised New Fairfield goaltender Sean Doyle.

The ‘Hawks were in control, but that’s when they started to get soft.

“I think we got a little cocky,” said Buzz. “The defense had some break downs and the offense wasn’t helping out.”

New Fairfield scored three unanswered goals in the third period – the first coming at 10:20 and the last coming at 6:18 – to take a 4-3 lead.

But it was the last goal, by Irat Feiskhanov, that seemed to shake the ‘Hawks from their doldrums. Just nine seconds after the Rebels took the lead, Buzz – off the face off – raced down the ice and shoved a backhanded shot past Doyle.

That set the stage for the game-winner in overtime.

The 3-3 Nighthawks hosted East Lyme on Tuesday at the Danbury Ice Arena (after press time) and will be at the Canterbury School on Saturday to take on New Milford (puck drops at 1:15 pm). They will return home on Wednesday, January 7, to host Milford (puck drops at 6:30 pm).

New Fairfield      1     0     3    0   - 4

Newtown               0     3     1    1   - 5

GOALS: Newtown – Sean LaPorta (3), Blaise LaPorta, Nick Harris; New Fairfield – Irat Feiskhanov (2), Jeff Hopkins, David Kahn. ASSISTS: Newtown – Harrison Kass; New Fairfield – Rob DeSimone (2), Ryan Wekerle. SHOTS: Newtown – 27; New Fairfield – 45. SAVES: Newtown – Peter Oggeri (21); New Fairfield – Sean Doyle (12).

The early season, non-conference schedule has always been a bear for the Newtown High School boys’ basketball team and – after a Tuesday night game with Kaynor Tech (after press time) – that bear has gone into hibernation.

A 60-38 loss to Staples of Westport last Saturday dropped the Nighthawks to 1-2 on the year.

A week after Andrew Fiscella scored his 1,000th career point, he was held without a field goal by the Wreckers and limited to just six points. Dave Anderson led the ‘Hawks with 13 points (including one three-pointer) while Ron Shimko canned a pair of three-pointers for six points.

Kyle Lyddy and Kevin Quinn played well for the ‘Hawks, who were down six points at the end of one period and 18 at the end of two. The Wreckers boasted a tremendous amount of size in the front court.

The ‘Hawks were limited to just eight field goals and shot a dismal 13-of-30 from the foul line.

The ‘Hawks open the South-West Conference schedule on Saturday at Immaculate (tip is 7 pm) and will be home on Tuesday, January 6, for a matchup with Notre Dame of Fairfield. A contest with powerhouse Kolbe-Cathedral looms on Friday, January 9.

Newtown             13     8     6 11 - 38

Staples                 19   20   15    4 - 60


NEWTOWN (38): Anderson 3 6-8 13, Fiscella 0 6-8 6, Manfredonia 1 1-2 3, Oliver 0 2-4 2, Shimko 2 0-1 6, Rouse 1 1-3 5, Lyddy 0 1-2 1, Quinn 1 2-2 4, Santella 0 0-0 0, McLaughlin 0 0-0 0 (Totals: 8 13-30 38); STAPLES (60): Stoebe 1 0-1 2, Haberstroh 1 0-0 2, Baumann 13 2-3 28, Cook 3 4-4 12, Forbes 7 0-0 14, Bruno 0 0-0 0, Altshwer 1 0-0 2, O’Shea 0 0-0 0, Leone 0 0-0 0, Thebault 0 0-0 0, Steiger 0 0-0 0 (Totals: 31 6-8 60).

Three-pointers: Shimko (N) 2, Anderson (N), Cook (S) 2.

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