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Girls’ Basketball Team Looks For Offensive Spark As Season Begins



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The goals for Newtown High School’s girls’ basketball team are the same as always: Win a South-West Conference championship and make a deep run in the state playoffs.

Whether or not the Nighthawks capture their first SWC title since 2019 hinges on a combination of how well the Nighthawks play and what the competition brings to the court. The Nighthawks will play their usual up-tempo, defensive-minded ball as they look to limit opposing teams’ looks on offense and push the pace when they have possession.

“If we can score we’re going to be very good. If we can’t we’re going to have to learn to grind games out again, like we have the last couple of years,” Newtown Coach Jeremy O’Connell said.

The Hawks regularly scored in the 30s and 40s last winter and that was good enough to post a 16-4 regular-season record thanks to strong defense.

“We need to focus on all the little things,” said O’Connell, referencing rebounding, sprinting through plays and not letting up, and going to the correct spot on the court to be in position at all times.

The team members are not as far along in terms of conditioning as in the past due to the coronavirus-related restrictions, from mask wearing to limited workouts each of the last couple of preseasons, O’Connell noted. He hopes to get the Hawks up to speed quickly in an effort to outrun the competition.

Although the Nighthawks will have to fill the shoes of four players lost to graduation, including O’Connell’s daughter Chloe, as well as Jenna Lagan who is out because of an injury, experience is on Newtown’s side. A large group of players who got time on the varsity court last winter is back in the fold.

Captains are forward Kristen Reisert, guard Bella Gerace, and forward/center Allie Bradley.

Guards Izzy Caron, Bridget McCleary, Macey Cuomo, Sophia Verdi, Ava Rochester, Sam Diasparo, Mo Murphy, and Reese Lischuk are other players to watch when the season tips off.

It all gets started on Monday, December 12, with a visit to Cromwell in the first of four consecutive challenging road tilts to get underway. NHS visits Darien, Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport, and Norwich Free Academy before the home opener, Tuesday, December 27, against East Lyme at noon.

“We want to be playing our best basketball in February,” O’Connell said of the benefit of facing tough opponents from the get-go. “If you play teams and beat them by 30 or 40 you’re not learning anything.”

The Hawks will learn a lot about themselves and the conference as things unfold. O’Connell anticipates Pomperaug of Southbury, last year’s SWC runner-up New Fairfield, Kolbe, and Immaculate of Danbury to be among the better teams in the SWC. Notre Dame-Fairfield, which has won the last three SWC titles, always has the potential to be a threat of not the team to beat depending on how the lineup shapes up.

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

Izzy Caron soars toward the rim in Newtown’s 45-33 state playoff defeat to visiting Manchester on February 28. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Bella Gerace moves up the court to set up the offense.
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