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Boys’ Basketball Team Carries Win Streak Into Friday Night Home Playoff Matchup With Weston



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UPDATE: The start of the SWC playoff opener between Newtown and Weston has been changed to 7 pm.

The Newtown High School boys’ basketball team heads into the playoffs on a winning note as the Nighthawks have won five straight games and eight of their last nine contests. The late-season success earned the Nighthawks the No. 4 seed and a home game in the South-West Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

Newtown will host No. 5 Weston, a team that defeated NHS 60-50 in Weston back on January 11. The rematch/playoff battle will be on Friday, February 23 at 6:30 pm.

We are very pleased with our growth late in our regular season. We are defending as a team, and really sharing the ball,” said Newtown Coach Matt Murphy, adding that the goal throughout the season has been to peak heading into the playoffs. “Hopefully we continue to improve.”

NHS went 13-7 overall during the regular slate and posted a 9-4 conference mark, one win better than Weston in SWC action.

“Weston is a quality team, that we are excited to have another shot at — at home ... in the playoffs. We committed 26 turnovers the last time we played. If we take care of the ball and defend, should be a great game,” Murphy said.

After defeating visiting Pomperaug of Southbury 65-55 on Senior Night, February 14, the Hawks traveled to Brookfield two nights later and won 72-64.

In the Pomperaug game, it was back and forth for the better part of three quarters. Declan Regan had a block at one end and finish in the other, with two seconds left in the opening half; it was 31-30 Nighthawks at the break. The teams had seven ties and 18 lead changes through the first two-plus quarters. NHS took the lead for good by the mid point of the third. After Ryan Zaniewski’s basket gave the Hawks a two-possession lead at 41-37 with four-plus minutes remaining in the third, the Hawk defense got consecutive stops allowing the offense to add to the lead. The Hawks led by as many as eight late in the period and saw Pomperaug get to within three points before Emmett Regan capped the stanza scoring with a basket despite a foul. It was 47-42 Newtown going to the fourth.

Newtown built on its lead early in the fourth with Makai Coleman hitting key shots, Declan Regan was set up by Asher Williams, and Ben Barber drove to the rim for a hoop as the Hawks maintained a multi-possession advantage.

The Panthers hung around. A Pomperaug 3-pointer got the visitors within five at 56-51 with 3:36 left. Coleman answered with a baseline drive 20 seconds later, after NHS broke a full-court Panther press. Coleman then had a takeaway on the defensive end and drove the length of the court to score a lay-in hoop for a 60-51 lead with 2:50 left. Coleman’s straightaway 3-pointer made the lead a dozen with the shot clock winding down and just 2:06 to go in the game.

Pomperaug did not get any closer than eight points behind and Aidan Walker iced things with a pair of late free throws.

Coleman finished the game with 30 points and nine rebounds and Declan Regan had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Drew Bradley grabbed seven rebounds to go along with three points.

“It was not our prettiest game of the season,” said Murphy, whose team did not execute as well on defensive assignments as the coach would have liked. “When we don’t play great if we win by ten it shows the heart and maturity of this group and how they’ve grown this season. We’re learning how to win close games,” Murphy said.

At Brookfield, Coleman again led the scoring efforts with 23 to pair with a six-rebound effort. Emmett Regan scored 13 and had five rebounds; Bradley dropped in 11 and had seven boards; and Declan Regan and Zaniewski each scored nine with Declan Regan collecting seven rebounds as well. Williams added five points.

Among the team’s goals were to qualify for the conference tournament and earn a quarterfinal-round home tilt. Thanks to winning ways throughout the second half of the campaign it is mission accomplished.

“I think we’re starting to really come together at the right time,” Murphy said.

Aside from Notre Dame-Fairfield (13-0 in conference play) and Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport (12-1), there is a lot of parity in the conference with only one or two wins separating the three (Bunnell of Stratford, 10-3), four, and five seeds; and a pair of seven-win teams in Pomperaug and Masuk of Monroe not far behind the middling squads.

Prior to the Pomperaug game seniors Coleman, Zaniewski, Aidan Licata, Andrew Grenier, Declan Regan, and Barber were all honored.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Ryan Zaniewski dribbles up the court during Newtown’s 65-55 win over visiting Pomperaug on February 14. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Emmett Regan goes up to block a shot as Declan Regan also defends under the basket.
Makai Coleman scored 30 points in the win over Pomperaug.
Ben Barber makes a move toward the basket.
Asher Williams (No. 00) defends for the Hawks.
Emmett Regan makes a pass.
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