Boys’ Basketball Team Wins Staples Holiday Tourney And Eyes Late-Season Success
Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team carries a hot start to the campaign into the New Year.
The Nighthawks jumped out to a sizable early lead, withstood a second-quarter Pomperaug of Southbury run, and pulled away for an 82-56 triumph in the Staples Holiday Tournament opener in Westport on December 27. Newtown won the tourney championship two days later with a 55-44 comeback victory over the hosts who defeated Westhill of Stamford in the first round.
Heading into the calendar turn, the Hawks were unbeaten at 5-0.
In the Staples tourney title game, the Nighthawks trailed 18-10 after one quarter of play before outscoring the Wreckers 45-26 the rest of the way.
Newtown got to within 25-21 at halftime and matched their first-half point total in the third quarter alone, winning the third 21-12 to take a 42-37 advantage into the fourth.
Robert DiSibio scored 26 points to earn tourney MVP accolades. Todd Petersen and Riley Ward were named to the All Tournament Team.
Ward had 12 points and Petersen added seven points.
DiSibio had eight of Newtown’s 22 rebounds and three of the team’s 13 steals. Jack Petersen had four steals. Todd Petersen had five of Newtown’s six shot blocks.
“Defense was a concern going into the season but if we can play it that well on a consistent basis we are going to be a pretty good team,” Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch said of his team’s second through fourth quarter efforts.
Tallcouch believes Newtown’s run to the Division II state playoff semifinals, all of which unfolded with the team wearing its visiting uniforms, paid dividends against Staples.
“Winning on the road last year during the state tournament run really showed in this game. Veteran leadership took over; we never panicked, and [we] beat a solid FCIAC team in Staples,” Tallcouch said.
The Pomperaug contest was a rematch of one of last year’s state playoff victories by the Hawks. In the Staples tourney, Newtown led 23-7 after one quarter of play. Pomperaug climbed to within 27-21 before the mid point of the second quarter, but the Hawks answered with a 13-0 run en route to a 40-25 halftime lead.
Tucker Garrity’s baseline drive for two points made it 29-21 with 4:07 to play in the half, and Garrity drained a 3-pointer from the left corner for an 11-point lead just 25 seconds later. Jack Petersen set up Ward for a fast break basket and a 34-21 lead, prompting the Panthers to take a timeout with 3:21 to go before the break.
Ward saved the ball in the back court and bounced it out off a Pomperaug player out of bounds leading to another Garrity hoop. DiSibio had back-to-back layups to extend the lead to 19 and cap the run.
It was 62-40 after three periods. A third-stanza highlight, and a welcomed sight for the Nighthawk cagers, was Todd Petersen converting a 3-point play when he was fouled, double-clutched, scored and canned a free throw.
Petersen played his first game of the year after being sidelined with a knee injury to start the regular campaign. Petersen contributed nine points, six assists, and five rebounds, and at 6-foot-6, he is the third of a trio of towers around the hoop that poses problems for opposing defenses and offenses alike. DiSibio and Jack Petersen also stand at about six and a half feet tall and not only score down low, but also contribute to the score sheet from the outside.
“Things are starting to come together,” said Tallcouch, adding that the return of Todd Petersen gives the Hawks another threat on the court. “He’s going to fit in nicely as we move forward. It just gives us another chess piece for us to play with. I think we’re going to consistently get better as we play together.”
Newtown defeated Torrington, Ledyard, and Capital Prep with Todd Petersen sidelined.
“The fact we’ve gone out and won those three games without me is huge. It shows how deep we are; it shows our character,” Todd Petersen said.
Against Pomperaug, Garrity led the way with 23 points and was great offensively and defensively, Tallcouch noted. DiSibio scored 21, Riley Ward had 13, Max Bloomquist ten, Jack Petersen five, and Chris Shaker scored five.
The Nighthawks hit eight 3-pointers; Ward had three, all in the opening quarter, Bloomquist a pair, and Garrity, DiSibio, and Jack Petersen one each from downtown.
Newtown was 7-for-7 from the free throw line. The Hawks scored in a variety of ways, including several fast-break baskets, including dunks by DiSibio.
“We’ve been practicing hard and we have good chemistry on and off the court. We expect to do well, and we’re having fun with it, and that’s contributed to our success,” DiSibio said.
The transition game was in high gear thanks to quick hands on defense, led by Garrity’s four thefts.
DiSibio had six rebounds and four assists; Ward had three rebounds, five assists, and a steal; Garrity and Shea Talbot each pulled down five rebounds; Jack Petersen had four rebounds and seven assists; and Preston Bliss-Martinez added two rebounds and three assists along with two steals.
The Hawks have not been content. Tallcouch said after the Pomperaug game that an area in which he would like to see his team improve is in keeping the pedal to the metal. In the early going this season, Newtown has built big leads and allowed opponents to claw back into the contests before Newtown pulls away.
“To me, that’s the biggest concern we have. You can’t be disinterested. At some point, our schedule’s going to be a bit more difficult,” Tallcouch noted.
Then came the win over Staples, a game in which the Hawks proved they can win in a variety of ways, as they had to overcome an early deficit rather than fend off the opposition.
Another component for the Hawks is how its depth will be used. Tallcouch, thanks to the big point differential against Pomperaug throughout much of the game, had the luxury of replacing all five starters at once to give them a breather and have a look at his bench. It remains to be seen who will step up and take advantage of those minutes the most as they become available during the course of the season.
“I need to find two or three guys off the bench I have confidence in,” the coach said.
After beginning the New Year with a home game against Daniel Hand of Madison on Wednesday at 6:15 pm, the Hawks have a week off before starting South-West Conference play with a Wednesday, January 9 visit to Pomperaug at 7 pm.
“We’ll take it one game at a time, but this is definitely a year we want to do some damage come March,” Todd Petersen said.
“A lot of basketball left to play. Just maintain the course, the defense, the overall commitment, and bring the energy every night,” Tallcouch added.