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By Kim J. Harmon



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By Kim J. Harmon

The 2002-03 season marked the beginning of a new era for the Newtown High School girls’ basketball program.

But losing four starters to graduation did not slow the Lady Nighthawks down much at all. Heading into a CIAC Class LL second round game against xx on Wednesday, the ‘Hawks sported an amazing 20-3 record.

And while the new-look ‘Hawks won a South-West Conference Colonial Division championship (the first under the guidance of head coach Gregg Simon) and pursued an SWC championship, former team members are pursuing things on a higher level.

Lisa Masella, Lori Iwanicki, Jayme Beckham, Carissa Rotas – four of the athletes who have helped make the NHS girls’ basketball program a perennial powerhouse.

Lisa Masella

Class of 2002

Last March, Lisa Masella was putting the wraps on a tremendous career at Newtown High School – but she still wasn’t sure she wanted to take her game to the collegiate level because she wasn’t sure she would be able to keep the tremendous commitment required.

But she made the decision to play.

And has made the most of the opportunity.

Masella – who finished with 737 points at Newtown High School, good for 10th-best on the all-time list – moved on to Western New England College and has helped lead the Lady Golden Bears on to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) quarterfinals.

Masella is the team’s leading scorer, popping in 387 points in 28 games (13.8 per game) while shooting 152-of-291 from the floor (52.2%). She has grabbed 242 rebounds (8.6 per game) while making 30 steals, dishing off 13 assists, and amassing a team-high 19 blocks.

Masella has come such a long way since Newtown Middle School, when she was a gangly seventh-grader with only the rawest skills. She worked hard at her game and developed quickly, becoming one of the strongest centers in the South-West Conference in a very short time.

And she continues to develop.

Yes – just a week or so ago, she earned her third GNAC Rookie of the Week Award while averaging 23.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games against Emerson and Rivier. Against Emerson, she scored 25 points (her second-highest total of the season) and grabbed 14 rebounds. For the two games, she shot an amazing 70.8% from the field (17-of-24) and 75% from the foul line (12-of-16).

On top of that, she was named to the GNAC All-Tournament Team after the Golden Bears (18-10) lost 65-41 to Emmanuel in the GNAC Tournament championship game on Saturday, March 1. Emmanuel improved to 25-3. Masella was also named to the National d3hoops.com women’s basketball Team Of The Week.

2002-03 Statistics

G        FG         3P        PTS       AVG       FTA       FTM       PCT

28      152           0        387        13.8        142          83      58.5


Lori Iwanicki

Class of 2002

When Amanda Marsilio was hurt in the 1999-2000 pre-season, Lori Iwanicki stepped into the huge void left behind and from that moment on became a tremendous offensive force for the Newtown High School girls’ basketball.

Iwanicki helped lead the Lady Nighthawks to their first South-West Conference championship later that season and went on to score 853 points for her career – good for fourth-best on the all-time scoring list.

One of the strongest offensive players the program has ever had, Iwanicki took her game to Mount Saint Mary’s College in Newburgh, New York. In her first year – with the Lady Blue Knights going an amazing 25-2 while winning their fourth consecutive Skyline Conference championship – Iwanicki appeared in 23 games and canned 20 field goals (four of those from three-point land). She scored 57 points (2.5 per game) while grabbing 40 rebounds (1.7 per game) and dishing off 10 assists (0.4 per game).

Iwanicki played about nine minutes a game – not bad for a freshman on a powerful team like Mount Saint Mary’s.

On Wednesday, the Lady Blue Knights began the NCAA Division III tournament with a visit to the University of Pittsburgh at Greenburgh.


2002-03 Statistics

G        FG         3P        PTS       AVG       FTA       FTM       PCT

23        20           4          57          2.5          18          13      72.2

Jayme Beckham

Class of 2000

Diving on the floor for a loose ball, wrestling for a rebound, banging bodies under the glass – Jayme Beckham did quite a bit of the dirty work for the Newtown High School girls’ basketball team.

Now she is doing some of that work for the Western Connecticut State University Lady Colonials.

When she was working the forward position for the Lady Nighthawks, Beckham was a dynamic player who – especially when coming off the bench – often provided a necessary jolt of energy.

She was on the floor when Katie Ryan hit a jumper with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter to lift the Lady Nighthawks over New Fairfield in the 1999-2000 South-West Conference championship. And in her career at Newtown, she scored 409 points (presently 25th on the all-time list).

In retrospect, the Lady Colonials had a tough season, going 9-17 overall and 5-9 in the Little East Conference. In a 62-40 loss to Trinity back on February 2 (in a non-conference contest), Beckham scored a team-high eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

For the season, Beckham appeared in 25 games (starting 19 of those) and popped in 48 field goals (one of those from three-point land). She scored 134 points (5.4 per game) while grabbing 99 rebounds (3.9 per game) and dishing off 40 assists (1.6 per game).

2003-03 Statistics

G        FG         3P        PTS       AVG       FTA       FTM       PCT

25        48           1        134          5.4          67          37      55.2


Carissa Rotas

Class of 1999

There was always something a little bit frenetic about Carissa Rotas.

The Newtown High School girls’ basketball program always prided itself on its speed and Rotas was one of the speediest guards the Lady Nighthawks had. Besides being an amazing ball handler, Rotas was also a ferocious – and unnerving – defender.

And with players like Heather Gunn, Katie Ryan, Amanda Marsilio and Beckham (see above), Rotas was part of the squad that finally washed out a 10-year dry spell with a victory against Masuk. Rotas scored 198 points in her career at Newtown High (presently 52nd on the all-time list).

She then took her game to Skidmore College – which finished 6-19 overall and 1-13 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference for 2002-03. For the season, Rotas appeared in 20 games (she started eight of those), Rotas scored 37 points (1.9 per game) while grabbing 29 rebounds (1.5 per game) and dishing off 21 assists (1.1 per game).

Interestingly, Western Connecticut State University defeated Skidmore College 53-37 back on November 24. In that game, Beckham scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting, but came up with six rebounds, three assists and a steal. Rotas did not score in 23 minutes of action, but grabbed a rebound and dished off an assist.

2002-03 Statistics

G        FG         3P        PTS       AVG       FTA       FTM       PCT

20        13           0          37          1.9          13          11      84.6

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