Fairfield Prep falls to Hillhouse in SCC semifinals
Updated 12:41 pm, Tuesday, February 28, 2017
NEW HAVEN — You know it’s been a pretty special year when you can play what Hillhouse junior guard Byron Breland III referred to as “probably our second-worst game of the season besides the first loss to Prep” and still pick up a four-point victory over the defending SCC champions.
“We had to come out today and prove something that we’re still the No. 1 team no matter what anyone else has said,” Breland said after his team’s 39-35 SCC semifinal win Monday over Fairfield Prep. “Just because we lost one game doesn’t discount ourselves. We’re going to come back and we’re going to fight.”
With his squad up by two points and 20 seconds remaining, Breland stepped to the line where he calmly sank both shots of a one-and-one to give his team the all-important two possession lead, 37-33.
With the win, the No. 2-seeded Academics advanced the SCC championship game against top-seeded and undefeated Notre Dame-West Haven.
Down four, Prep inbounded the ball with less than 10 seconds remaining and got a layup from John Kelly to cut Hillhouse’s lead to 37-35 with 4.9 seconds to go, though the clock did not appear to start on time.
After some deliberation, the officials ruled that just two seconds remained and Hillhouse inbounded the ball to Breland, who was fouled with 0.4 seconds left and hit both free throws to seal the win.
“We just had to grind it out,” Hillhouse’s Joey Kasperzyk said. “It’s one of those types of games where you’ve just got to grind it out the whole game. Whoever makes the most mistakes, that’s who loses. We held them to 13 points I think in the second half and played great defense down the stretch.”
Hillhouse closed out the first quarter by scoring the final seven points, as Breland drained a 3-pointer and Rayshawn Brewer notched consecutive put-backs to give the Academics a 14-11 lead.
Fairfield Prep immediately responded, opening the second quarter with a 5-0 run that included a nice turnaround jumper by Patrick Harding and a pair of free throws from John Kelly for a 16-14 edge.
“We always know when we play them it’s going to be ugly and a defensive-oriented game,” Fairfield Prep coach Leo Redgate said. “We didn’t have our best, I’m sure they didn’t have their best and we always expect a battle against Hillhouse and we wish them luck the rest of the way.”
With time dwindling in the half, Breland milked the clock down to seven seconds before making his move and rifling a pass into the paint to Brewer, who hit a layup with four seconds remaining to give his squad a 21-20 advantage at the break. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half — or by more than five the whole night.
“I thought the guys played hard,” Redgate said. “We just maybe had to hit a couple more shots. If a couple more shots fall, we have a chance to win the game. I didn’t think we took too many bad shots. Sometimes I think we were a little hesitant to take shots. Everyone’s got the green light and I probably wish we got a couple more shots up.”
Fairfield Prep tied the game for the first and only time of the second half when Philip Vlandis nailed a 3-pointer late in the third quarter, though the Academics claimed the final five points of the stanza on Brewer’s layup and Warner’s trey to take a 31-26 advantage into the fourth.
Down 35-33, Fairfield Prep took a five-second violation with 27 seconds to play, which led to Breland notching his two foul shots that made it 37-33.
“We set very high standards for ourselves at Prep and we play to be playing our best basketball this time of the year,” said Redgate, who said his team will play Wilbur Cross in the first round of the Class LL state tournament. “No one is talking about Fairfield Prep, but I don’t think anyone in the SCC takes us lightly and I think we’ve earned that respect.”
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