The first-round matchups Thursday night at the annual Fairfield Prep Holiday Classic high school boys basketball tournament, which led to a Jesuits-Lancers final Saturday night at 8 p.m., were as different as could be. All four high schools in town were featured in the double-header.
Notre Dame-Fairfield rallied from a one-basket deficit entering the fourth quarter at Fairfield University's Alumni Hall and defeated Fairfield Ludlowe 56-52 in the opener. Fairfield Prep, the hosts, led by a basket midway through the first quarter then inserted its All-State player, 7-foot-2 inch tall Paschal Chukwu, and began pouring it on. The Jesuits posted a 109-64 victory over Fairfield Warde in the second game. Notre Dame and Fairfield Prep met in last year's tournament final as well.
The Lancers (1-2) trailed Ludlowe 42-39 before clicking in the fourth quarter to earn its first win of the season. Jaylen Jennings led Notre Dame with 17 points and Jake Heaton added 13. The Falcons, who will meet cross-town rival Warde on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the consolation game for the second straight year, got 17 points from Mark Malone and 15 from Matt Doyle. Ludlowe dropped to 1-2.
Prep led the Mustangs 10-7 before Jesuits' coach Leo Redgate summoned Chukwu, who is recovering from an injury, off the bench. Prep, which improved to 3-0, closed out the first quarter on a 23-9 run. Chukwo, who played sparingly, finished with 14 points, one of five Jesuits in double-figures. Tommy Nolan paced Prep's attack with 21 points, followed by Ryan Murphy's 19, Ryan Foley and Chukwu's 14 and 13 from Keith Pettway. Nick Cotto scored 18 points for Warde (0-3), Giacomo Brancato, averaging 21.7 points per game, added 17 and Brandon Bisack scored 10 points.
"I've led by 30 points, taken out my starters and lost. That's happened," Prep coach Leo Redgate said. "When you're up 40 points, that's when you take out your starters."
The Jesuits held a 30-16 lead entering the second quarter and were up by 63-35 going into halftime. It was 89-53 in favor of the Jesuits at the start of the fourth quarter. No Prep starter was on the court in the final period.
"I thought we played a pretty good game. I thought we shared the ball pretty well. My job is to create five to seven weapons to cause problems for the other teams," Redgate said. "I thought did some bad things on defense, and I put them (starters) back in to start the third quarter to go out and make corrections."
Warde coach Ryan Swaller was impressed with Prep's backcourt, noting the improvements from last year in guards Tommy Nolan and Ryan Murphy.
"Nolan controlled the ball. He made things happen for himself and his teammates, and Murphy was tremendous," Swaller said. "They showed the maturity that they didn't have last year. We let them control the game. I know the type of players they have. They're a good team, a state finalist team. You have to give credit to them."
Swaller said he was impressed with his young players who played most of the second half after his starters were removed. "We did not stick with what we had to," Swaller said in characterizing the Mustangs' play before gave his reserves a chance to gain some experience.
Neither coach in the first game -- Vinny Laczkoski for Notre Dame and John Dailey for Ludlowe -- had the opportunity to experiment with rotation combinations.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Joe Cantey and Jordan Pettway, between a Lancer' successful harassment attempt to disrupt a layup on a Ludlowe breakaway, drew Notre Dame even then ahead by three points within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. A steal by Doyle, who fed Hayes Kelchner for a layup moved the Falcons to within a point soon after Notre Dame's pair of 3-pointers. But that's as close as Ludlowe would be over the balance of the fourth quarter.
"We're still trying to figure out our identity as a team," Laczkoski said. "In the first half, there was a lot of good things we did. In the third quarter, we came out flat; we were a little tentative. In the fourth quarter, we were able to catch the momentum at the start.
"I like the fast pace, we just didn't convert. When you score 54 points in a game, that's not converting a lot," Laczkoski said.
Notre Dame, which led by 31-26 at halftime, is quite young. Pettway and Jesse McIntosh are sophomores who start for the Lancers and 10th-grader Cantey is in the first rotation to come in, as is freshman Anthony Gadsden.
Dailey was waiting for Doyle to have a breakthrough game, and his 15-point performance represented that, he said. "Mark Malone stepped up with his three 3-pointers. I saw a lot of good things tonight. We scored up in the 50s, and that's good for a team that's scored in the 40s and 30s the last couple of years. We're young. We're going to make mistakes, and that's OK. We just made a couple of errant passes in the fourth quarter.
"We gave up six quick points and let them back in. We're trying to learn how to win. It's a process," Dailey said. "We've got to learn how to extend leads. We've got to learn to play from the outside in. We've got to pound it down low more."
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Notre Dame 56, Fairfield Ludlowe 52
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (1-2)
Owen Mockler 0 0-0 0 Matt Doyle 7 0-0 15 Darren Lee 2 0-0 5 Mark Malone 5 4-4 17 Jack Armstrong 0 0-0 0 Chad Peterson 1 0-0 2 Kevin Hickey 2 0-0 4 Hayes Kelchner 3 0-0 6 Chris Howell 0 3-4 3. Totals: 20 7-8 52.
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD (1-2)
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 11 15 16 10--52
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 16 15 8 17--56
3-pointers: FL--Malone 3, Doyle, Lee; ND--Pettway, Cantey. Fouled out: FL--Lee.
Fairfield Prep 109, Fairfield Warde 64
FAIRFIELD WARDE (0-3)
Nick Cotto 6 5-6 18 Brian Kerrigan 0 0-0 0 Terrance Walden 2 0-0 5 Thomas Luckner 1 0-1 2 Kavon Polk 3 1-6 7 Giacomo Brancato 6 5-6 17 Brandon Bisack 4 1-2 10 Chris Smaldone 1 1-2 3 Dylan Reilly 1 0-0 2 Jared Collier 0 0-0 0 Mark Schwartz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 13-23 64.
FAIRFIELD PREP (3-0)
Paschal Chukwu 7 0-0 14 Dave Zieliniski 2 0-0 4 Keith Pettway 5 2-5 13 Rich Van deBerghe 2 0-0 4 Tommy Nolan 9 0-2 21 Ryan Foley 6 0-0 14 Ray Featherston 1 0-0 3 Joe DiGennaro 2 1-1 5 Tate Duran 0 0-0 0 Patrick Harding 2 0-0 4 Ryan Murphy 9 1-2 19 Drew Rolapp 1 0-0 2 Bobby Haskins 0 3-3 3 Matt Gerics 1 1-2 3. Totals: 47 8-15 109.
FAIRFIELD WARDE 16 19 18 11--64
FAIRFIELD PREP 30 33 26 20--109
3-pointers: FW--Cotto, Walden, Bisack; FP--Nolan 3, Foley 2, Pettway, Featherston.