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Girls' Cagers Wallop Masuk, Take Gains From First Loss



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Girls’ Cagers Wallop Masuk, Take Gains From First Loss

By Andy Hutchison

MONROE — Jeremy O’Connell has been pushing his players to not only work hard to jump out on top of opponents, but keep the pedal the metal and not give them a chance to make a comeback. O’Connell, coach of the Newtown High School girls’ basketball team, watched his Nighthawks establish an early lead and run away with things in a 69-36 win over the host Masuk Panthers on Tuesday night.

“Our pressure and the intensity that we brought out really got ’em early and we’re finally starting — when we get leads — to put teams away instead of letting them hang around,” O’Connell said. “That’s a huge thing. If you give them that opportunity you never know the way the ball’s going to bounce.”

The Nighthawks got 19 points from Riley Wurtz, 17 of which came in the first half, and received scoring contributions from throughout the starting lineup and some of their reserve players as they improved to 7-1 overall.

Newtown kicked off the New Year in style after closing out 2011 with a defeat O’Connell hopes will help his team in the long run. The Nighthawks fell 57-47 to Manchester in the host school’s holiday tournament championship game on December 29, two days after beating New Britain convincingly, 73-36, in the tourney opener.

The coach said his team looked great against New Britain and very good against Manchester in a pair of nonconference tilts scheduled in an effort to test the defending South-West Conference champion Hawks.

“We want to play good teams to make ourselves better for when March rolls around … the end of February and March,” O’Connell said. “We can play with anybody and, if they learn that — really get that in their head that we can play with anyone — that loss can only help us farther down the road.”

Newtown will host Bunnell of Stratford at 7 pm on Friday, January 6, and will entertain Immaculate of Danbury on Tuesday, January 10. Following a January 13 visit to Bethel, NHS will go to Lauralton Hall of Milford on January 17 for a rematch of last year’s SWC title game and second round state tournament clash won by Lauralton.

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