NEWTOWN >> A year ago the Bethel girls basketball team went 10-10 in the regular season and fell in the first round of the South-West Conference tournament to New Fairfield.
What a difference a year makes.
On Wednesday inside the Hawks Nest at Newtown, the second-seeded Wildcats pulled away from fifth-seeded New Fairfield in the fourth quarter to win their first SWC championship, 44-37.
“Ever since we came into high school as freshman we said we wanted to put a banner up on the wall,” Bethel captain Amanda Towey said. “We did it. We accomplished our goal.”
Lily Daniels was named the tournament Most Outstanding Player after scoring 12 points in the final. Senior captain Amanda Towey also scored 12.
“They played great,” Bethel coach Anderson Rawlins said. “I’m extremely proud of our team. New Fairfield is a tough team, they’ve been here before and we knew that we had to come in like we were the underdogs. We played a team game tonight. It feels real good right now. It’s a sweet victory.”
Kristen Teklits led the game with a hard-fought 19 points, most coming from a very physical low post area.
“We’re used to games being played like that in this league,” New Fairfield coach Brendan Moore said.
The physicality intensified as the game wore on, but it remained tight throughout until Towey hit a couple of jump shots at the end of the third quarter to regain the lead for Bethel for good.
“I think our defense jumpstarted it too,” Towey said. “We got rebounds, we boxed out, we closed out on the shooters. Everyone communicated and then we went on the offensive end and really made our shots.”
It was the sixth lead change of the game that gave the Wildcats a 25-24 advantage on Towey’s first of two successive baskets. Her second, coming off a steal, gave Bethel the momentum it needed heading into the fourth quarter.
“Our coach doesn’t really have a voice right now,” Daniels said. “We’ve been having to talk more as a team and as a unit. Our captain Amanda Towey runs our offense and when she tells us to do something we know exactly what to do.”
The defense stepped up on both ends not allowing a basket until 4:24 remained, but it was a Bethel basket and it scored seven straight from that point, five from Daniels, to take a 10 point lead.
“Defensively I thought they were outstanding tonight,” Moore said. “It felt like one of those games where whoever was able to pull ahead by four or six was going to take it. Unfortunately for us they were able to string a couple of scores together and get up that six or eight points.”
New Fairfield fought until the very end, but the Wildcats made nine of 14 free throws to keep the game out of reach.
Bethel 44, New Fairfield 37
New Fairfield: 7 11 6 13 — 37
Bethel: 10 6 11 17 — 44
(at Newtown High School)
New Fairfield (37) — Pam Sbarra 2 0-0 4, Leah Anderson 2 3-5 8, Sydney Gouveia 1 1-2 4, Kristen Teklits 5 7-9 19, Rachael Commiano 0 0-0 0, Allison Teklits 0 0-0 0, Kerrigan Quinn 1 0-0 2 — Total 11 11-16 37.
Bethel (44) — Annie Bedore 0 0-0 0, Sofia Orrica 0 0-0 0, Amanda Towey 4 4-4 12, Vicky Gracy 0 0-0 0, Lily Daniels 4 4-8 12, Meggy Dolan 4 0-2 11, Britney Roach 0 0-0 0, Maranda Nyborg 2 2-2 6, Abby Saunders 1 0-0 2 — Total 15 10-16 44.
3-pointers: NF — K. Teklits (2), Anderson, Gouveia; B — Dolan (3), Towey.
Team records: New Fairfield 19-4; Bethel 20-3.