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Crazy push by Lancers falls just shy

Published 4:44 pm, Thursday, March 20, 2014
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Notre Dame-Fairfield's buzzer-beater attempt, to forge a tie and culminate a frantic rally in the final three minutes, was off the mark on Monday night in the CIAC Class M boys basketball quarterfinals against No. 7 Waterford in a battle of Lancers vs. Lancers.

The Waterford Lancers, of the ECC, escaped the Sister Marion Rielly Auditorium with a berth in the semifinals on Wednesday by edging the No. 2 Notre Dame Lancers 66-63.

Notre Dame, which finished at 17-6, trailed by eight points with 2:58 remaining.

After a 3-pointer by Jesse McIntosh, an offensive rebound and layup by Jaylen Jennings, a baseline drive for a bucket by CJ Davidson and two free throws each by Jordan Pettway and Joseph Cantey, the host Lancers were down by 64-63 with 20 seconds left to play.

But Waterford's Donny Craig, who had a game-high 31 points, and Isaiah Jones each made one of two foul shots in the final 17.6 seconds to send Notre Dame into a 66-63 hole, but not without a hope to force overtime.

Notre Dame's last shot -- set up by a Jennings rebound of a missed Jones' foul shot with 7.6 to play -- was not taken by a 3-point specialist, though.

Waterford, which improved to 18-7, will play No. 3 East Catholic, of the CCC, which advanced to the Final Four by defeating No. 22 Joel Barlow 73-46 in Manchester.

Craig, a senior who averages 14 points per game, seized control of the game with his drives to the rim, his open-look jumpers -- including a save out-of-bounds try in mid air that remarkably turned into a bucket to open the fourth-quarter scoring -- and the rebounding from his 5-foot-10 inch frame.

"We feel good when the ball is in his hands," said Waterford coach Greg Gwudz. "We usually have three or four players in double figures, so that's why he can be under the radar sometimes. He's unselfish. He's been our leader all year. He's scored 32 before. He stepped up tonight. He was phenomenal."

Notre Dame coach Vin Laczkoski acknowledged the role Craig played in shaping the outcome. "We tried four different ways to stop him," Laczkoski said. None was more effective than the others.

"They had two guys on Jaylen Jennings the whole time," he said. "Without a doubt, you have to give Waterford the credit. It was more of what they were doing."

Waterford opened a 15-10 lead entering the second quarter. The Lancers trailed Waterford by 28-21 with 1:37 left in the half. Then Notre Dame rallied by outscoring Waterford 11-3 over the rest of the second quarter for a 32-31 lead at halftime.

The run was fueled by a traditional three-point play by Davidson, a 3-pointer by Cantey and Jake Heaton converting a one-and-one from the foul line.

But the second half was punctuated by good plays from Waterford, along with fewer mistakes. The visiting Lancers had built a 56-45 lead on Jones converting a one-and-one with 3:49 to play. Then Notre Dame's intensity to rally led to some steals and crisp ball movement to find the open shooters.

rwalmark@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561 ext 113; twitter.com/ReidWalmark

Class M boys basketball quarterfinal

Waterford 66, Notre Dame-Fairfield 63

WATERFORD (18-7)

Donny Craig 12 5-10 31 Jean-Pierre Schneider 4 5-6 13 Daniel Martin 2 0-0 5 Connor Lewis 3 5-9 11 Isaiah Jones 1 2-6 4 Michael Gianakos 0 0-2 0 Kevin Johnson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 23 17-33 66.

NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD (17-6)

Jordan Pettway 3 4-5 10 CJ Davidson 6 2-4 15 Jake Heaton 4 4-6 14 Jaylen Jennings 1 1-2 3 Jesse McIntosh 5 1-3 15 Raphael Torres 0 0-0 0 Joseph Cantey 1 2-2 5 Anthony Gadsden 0 1-2 1. Totals: 20 15-24 63.

WATERFORD 15 16 14 19--66

NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 10 22 6 25--63

3-pointers: W--Craig 2, Martin. ND--McIntosh 4, Heaton 2, Davidson, Cantey. Fouled out: ND--McIntosh, Cantey.