Boys’ Basketball Team, After Overtime Loss, To Face Weston In Playoff Opener
Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team spoiled Weston’s Senior Night with a 49-36 win on February 20, then had their Senior Night end in an exciting but disappointing finish, falling 57-51 to Bunnell of Stratford in overtime on February 25.
The Nighthawks will have a rematch with Weston in the South-West Conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday, February 28; the fifth-seeded Trojans visit No. 4 Newtown at 7 pm. Bunnell earned the eighth seed and will travel to top-seeded Immaculate of Danbury in other quarterfinal action.
In their meeting last week, the Nighthawks led Weston 22-12 at halftime and were up by just seven early in the third quarter before pulling ahead 31-20 heading to the fourth.
Jack Mulligan had 14 points, Riley Ward scored 13, and Tyson Mobley added ten for the Nighthawks.
Newtown’s defense was solid throughout and was the best it has been this season, said Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch, adding that this was a great team win.
“That was our number one focus,” Tallcouch said of his team’s defensive effort. “Anytime you go on the road and to a place that has Senior Night you’ve got to play at an energy level that’s higher than the opponent’s.”
Bunnell, in need of a win to qualify for the state playoffs and to keep their conference tourney qualification hopes alive — the Bulldogs needed other teams to lose, then qualified via tie-breakers — brought plenty of energy to the court in posting an upset at Newtown, which honored seniors Jack Kuligowski, Mulligan, and Ward. The Bulldogs led 30-21 at the half and by as many as 12 in the third quarter.
Newtown fought back and closed to within three points, down 41-38 after three quarters. Kuligowski hit a straightaway 3-pointer and a scored fast break basket, and Ward scored two points after an Isaiah Williams sideline save late in the quarter.
In the fourth, the Hawks hung close and evened the score on a Jack Petersen steal and basket, making it 45-45 with 2:09 left. Newtown took its first lead of the half when Mulligan finished the a fast break after a Tyson Mobley steal, making it 47-45 with only 1:16 remaining in regulation. Tiyorne Coleman scored on a put-back to beat the buzzer and force OT.
The Nighthawks had an early lead in overtime thanks to a Kuligowski hoop, but couldn’t hang on and the Bulldogs pulled away at the free throw line.
Kuligowski had 14 points and Mulligan scored a 12 for NHS. Petersen scored ten, Ward eight, and Mobley six.
Derrik Gyimah, younger brother of Newtown Assistant Coach Isaac Gyimah, scored 22 points to lead the Bulldogs.
Newtown had an uncharacteristically rough night shooting the ball but stayed in the game by showing heart, diving to the floor to force jump balls, and hustling to create turnovers. The Nighthawks had some costly turnovers of their own.
“We were down 12, we fought back; we actually took the lead. A little ball security would probably have sealed the game,” Tallcouch said.
If the Hawks return to their winning ways against Weston they will have a date with the winner of the Immaculate-Bunnell contest in the Monday, March 2, semifinals (at the higher seed beginning at 7 pm); the championship game is set for Thursday, March 5 at 7 pm (location to be determined). The other quarterfinal matchups are No. 2 Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport against No. 7 Bethel, and No. 3 Joel Barlow of Redding against No. 6 Pomperaug of Southbury.