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Boys’ Cagers Eliminated By Daniel Hand, But Hawks Gave It Their All This Winter



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It was a stellar overall season for Newtown High School’s boys’ basketball team. Consider this: The Nighthawks had a new-look lineup after the graduation of 48 of its average of 64 points per game and still went on to post a record of 13-7 and earn the third seed in the South-West Conference Tournament. The Hawks also claimed home-court advantage in opening-round SWC and Division II State Tournament games.

“I’m proud of them for everything they gave us,” Newtown Coach Tim Tallcouch said after the host and No. 14 Nighthawks were eliminated from the D-II bracket in the first round by No. 19 Daniel Hand of Madison, 53-37, on March 7. “They gave me everything I could ask for this year.”

This marks the end of a decade-plus coaching era at NHS turned in by Tallcouch, who said seniors Connor Dullinger, Connor Hintze, Eli Williams, and Saahil Ray provided leadership and that the juniors also stepped up to help carry this team to a successful campaign.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better group to go out with. I thanked them for everything they’ve done for me and for each other,” Tallcouch said.

The Hawks may have done better than could have been expected given the player turnover and varsity inexperience but, after what this group accomplished — including an SWC tourney quarterfinal win and getting to the conference semis — the ending came sooner than the Nighthawks had hoped it would. Hand came in with a record of 12-8 out of the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) and withstood a good start by Newtown before turning the game around in the second quarter.

It was 10-9 Nighthawks after the first eight minutes of play. Andrew Grenier’s 3-pointer made it 13-9 early in the second, but then the Tigers used a high-pressure defense, quick-pace offense, and ability to finish on the offensive end and went on a 17-0 run for a 26-13 lead. Newtown went about seven minutes without scoring and a late-quarter free throw left the score 26-14 at the half.

Makai Coleman’s runner for two points answered a Hand basket to begin second-half play. Declan Regan’s putback response to a Tiger hoop made it 30-18, but Newtown could not afford to continue trading baskets. The visitors, however, ended up building a 40-21 through three quarters of play and never let the Hawks back into the game.

“They did a nice job defensively against us. They’re an SCC team — they play in a great league — they’re well-coached. They beat us in every facet of the game from the second quarter on,” Tallcouch said.

Newtown got 19 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, from Coleman and six teammates combined for the other 18 points. Regan contributed five points and a big night on the boards with 15 rebounds. Ray and Hintze both had two steals and Williams blocked a couple of shot attempts.

Newtown started this season on the wrong end of an 83-58 blowout against Tallcouch’s former team, Wilton, but started the year at 3-3 and proceeded to win nine of its next 11 games to climb in the standings and rankings. All things considered, it was a good season for these Hawks.

“This team never stopped believing. They really came together this year,” Tallcouch said.

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

Andrew Grenier makes a move up court as Saahil Ray (No. 24) sets a pick during Newtown’s state playoff game loss, a 53-37 final, to visiting Daniel Hand of Madison on March 7. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Connor Hintze looks to make a play on the offensive end of the court.
Saahil Ray drives along the baseline in photo at left.
Declan Regan tries to find an open teammate as Hand applies tough defense.
Makai Coleman led Newtown with 19 points.
Eli Williams goes high to block a shot attempt in a battle of No. 11s.
Connor Dullinger dribbles the ball up court to set up the offense.
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