Newington boys basketball outlasts Middletown to go above .500

Published on Thursday, 3 February 2022 23:03
Written by MATT HORNICK

@MNHornick

NEWINGTON - A difficult first quarter proved to be no issue for Newington boys basketball Thursday, as the Nor’easters bounced back from a slow start on offense to beat Middletown 65-57.

Newington improved its record to 7-6 this season while handing the Blue Dragons their fourth loss of the year and was anchored by its performance at the free-throw line. The Nor’easters took 20 more foul shots than Middletown and made more than 75 percent (28 for 37) of their attempts while the Blue Dragons made less than 50 percent of theirs.

Seniors Sean Hurley and Nick Gagliardi each made nine free throws, which were more than Middletown made as a team (eight), as Hurley led his side in scoring with 17 points.

Middletown refused to go away, starting the final period on a 9-2 run to come within two points of the Nor’easters. Newington never relinquished the lead and stayed in front with timely free-throw shooting, active defense and a pair of technical fouls against Middletown at the end.

The Nor’easters stretched their lead back out to seven points, but the Blue Dragons made it a three-point game in the final two minutes.

“At the beginning, it’s not that we were scared, we just weren’t going at their big man,” senior Sean Hurley said. “After a while we kept going at him, kept getting to the [foul] line, we got open shots and the game opened up for us.”

After exiting the first quarter trailing by nine, Newington entered the final period leading by nine behind a pair of lengthy runs. The Nor’easters outscored Middletown 13-2 over the first five minutes of the third quarter to take a 10-point lead. The Blue Dragons responded by scoring the ensuing seven points to keep the game close, but Newington closed the quarter with six straight points to go up by nine points with eight minutes to play.

“We were moving the ball more,” junior Gavin Gray said. “We were working at our pace instead of theirs, moving the ball up the floor in transition, working in-to-out and getting more shots that were ours instead of rushing shots.”

At risk of losing control of the contest before halftime, the Nor’easters became the team that limited their opponent’s shot opportunities. They cut the deficit to one point by halftime as shots started falling and they kept Elijah Wilborn, who scored seven points from getting the ball close to the basket. Wilborn posted seven points in the first quarter and took advantage of his height against a smaller Newington lineup.

Middletown also aided Newington’s comeback with its inability to make free throws. The Blue Dragons squandered most of their best scoring chances in the second quarter by making two of their 10 free throw attempts, which eased the Nor’easters’ pursuit of the lead.

“We just started to be more physical with [Wilborn] and tried to work and compete against him,” Quick said. “We were not challenging him and weren’t blocking him out, [but] we got a little more physical with him and it worked out a little better for us.”

Points did not come easy for the Nor’easters early in the game as they struggled making shots even as they found open spaces against Middletown’s defense. The Blue Dragon’s careless passing gave Newington additional scoring opportunities, but it failed to get to the basket in transition and finished the first quarter with eight points.

“We just brought the energy up [after the first quarter],” senior Trey Guest said. “Once we started getting to the basket and making shots that’s when [we improved].”

The Nor’easters will welcome another team from Middletown on Saturday when they host Xavier (7-6) at noon.

Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or mhornick@bristolpress.com.

NEWINGTON 65, MIDDLETOWN 57

At Newington

Newington 8 17 19 21 - 65

Middletown 17 9 9 22 - 57

NEWINGTON: Noah Tharaldson 3-2-8, Sean Hurley 3-9-17, Freddie Martinez 3-2-8, Trey Guest 4-2-10, Nicholas Gagliardi 0-9-9, Gavin Gray 3-4-10, Avery Mickens 1-0-3. Totals 17-28-65.

MIDDLETOWN: Elijah Wilborn 8-3-19, Chace Petgrave 6-1-15, Marshall Butler 2-4-9, Timothy Vaughters 1-0-3, Matthew Steuerwald 3-0-9, Dariyon Drake 1-0-2. Totals 21-8-57.

Three-point goals: Petgrave (M) 2, Vaughters (M), Hurley (N) 2, Steuerwald (M) 3, Mickens (N), Butler (M).

Records: Newington 7-6, Middletown 9-4.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Newington on Thursday, 3 February 2022 23:03. Updated: Thursday, 3 February 2022 23:06.