Pomperaug High's boys' basketball team has started the season with a 1-2 record but is just a couple of baskets from a winning mark and a couple of quarters from an unbeaten start.
The Panthers sandwiched a 65-50 triumph over Northwestern on December 23 with a 44-42 setback to Joel Barlow (in the December 19 season opener) and 77-70 defeat to Staples of Westport on December 27.
The Panthers fell behind 17-5 after one quarter of play against Barlow before storming back only to lose a nail-biter.
In the Staples game, Pomperaug went down 24-11 after one quarter and battled most of the way back — twice getting to within three points in the final four minutes — before coming up short.
"First quarters are killing us," said Pomperaug Coach David Yachtis, adding that his team can be pretty good if it can put together full 32-minute efforts each night.
The good news is that the Panthers have lots of the season left and plenty of potential for this to be a successful campaign.
"We're deep, we're athletic, we can play big, we can play small. We've got guys who can shoot and players who are good ball handlers. We have all the pieces we need," Yachtis said.
Pomperaug had a fast start in its win, dropping 16 first-quarter points and pouring in 27 more in the second on the way to a 43-24 halftime lead against Northwestern. Dion Zhuta scored 17 points, including an 8-for-10 performance at the foul line, Adam Opalka had 11, and Ethan Gomulinski and Noah Fradkin both scored 10. Andrew Doan scored eight, Spencer Dragone added five, and Dean Koulouris tacked on four.
Zhuta led Pomperaug with 20 in the Barlow game. Pomperaug will get another look at Barlow in the regular season-finale, at home on February 25; tip is at 7.
Doan scored 21 to lead the Panthers in the Staples contest. Zhuta scored 15. Koulouris had 10, nine of which came on a trio of 3-pointers. Opalka added eight, highlighted by two shots from behind the arc. Fradkin and Gomulinski both had six points.
A corner 3-pointer from Koulouris trimmed the Staples lead in half, making the score 64-61 with 3:36 to play. The Wreckers built a nine-point lead before back-to-back baskets from downtown again pulled Pomperaug to within three. Koulouris hit a shot from the right corner, then Fradkin came up with a steal and coast-to-coast basket plus one to make the score 70-67 with 1:38 to go, but the Panthers got no closer.
The Panthers visit Newtown on Monday, December 30 at 1 pm. The Panthers have their first home game after the calendar turns to 2020. Wethersfield visits Monday, January 6 at 7 pm.