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Fairfield Prep beats Greenwich, to face Central for Class LL title

Published 11:25 pm, Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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  • Paschal Chukwu (#44) of Fairfield Prep scores on a dunk as Greenwich defenders look on from left, Alex Wolf, CJ Byrd and Jon Palmer during the Class LL boys basketball semi-final game between Fairfield Prep and Greenwich High School at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Photo: Bob Luckey / Greenwich Time

    Paschal Chukwu (#44) of Fairfield Prep scores on a dunk as Greenwich defenders look on from left, Alex Wolf, CJ Byrd and Jon Palmer during the Class LL boys basketball semi-final game between Fairfield Prep and Greenwich High School at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

    Photo: Bob Luckey

 

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BRIDGEPORT -- Alex Wolf scored the first minor victory in the battle of big men on Wednesday night's opening play, swatting down a hook shot by Fairfield Prep's 7-foot-2 center, Paschal Chukwu.

The rest of the night, however, belonged to the Jesuits.

With Chukwu disrupting Greenwich's rhythm on both ends of the floor, the top-seeded Jesuits pulled away for a 59-41 victory in the LL state semifinals before 2,012 at Webster Bank Arena.

Chukwu scored only 10 points, but he was an even bigger factor on defense. He recorded 11 rebounds, four blocks and affected nearly every Cardinals drive into the paint.

"He's a great player," said Cardinals guard CJ Byrd, who scored 12 points. "If anything, if he wasn't blocking shots, he was altering shots."

Three other players scored in double figures as Prep (27-0) advanced to its third LL final in the last four years. The state's last remaining unbeaten will face No. 2 Central (26-1) on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.

Greenwich led 13-12 after a bucket by Byrd, but Prep quickly turned the game in its favor. A 3-pointer by Dave Zielinski -- one of four in the first half for the Jesuits -- sparked a 14-4 run into halftime. The Cardinals didn't have nearly enough offense to keep up, especially with Chukwu's unrelenting presence.

"Having me in the middle stops them from doing whatever they want to do. ...You have to force them to take outside shots," the Jesuits center said.

Prep point guard Keith Pettway recorded 12 points and Thomas Nolan and Ryan Foley scored 11 apiece.

Wolf, Greenwich's 6-foot-9 center, finished with nine points, six rebounds and one block. He produced four of those points early -- giving the Cardinals a one-point lead to open the second quarter -- but the Jesuits never allowed the FCIAC runner-up to settle into a rhythm offensively. The Cardinals committed 20 turnovers.

"You focus so much on (Chukwu) that it takes you out of your game," Greenwich coach Bill Brehm said. "He (Wolf) never played against a (7-foot-2) player."

Greenwich got as close as six points in the second half on a 3-pointer by Tommy Povinelli to start the third, but Prep outscored the Cardinals 13-4 over the rest of the quarter. The Jesuits led by as many as 21 in the second half.

"Our goal was to stop CJ and not let him have a big night," Prep coach Leo Redgate said. "He's a very good athlete, is a great player and will continue to be a great player. We just didn't want to have one or two guys beat us."

The Jesuits didn't allow that to happen. Now they're one win away from their first state title since 1997.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; twitter.com/DougBonjour

Class LL semifinals at Webster Bank Arena

GREENWICH (23-4)

CJ Byrd 5 2-3 12 Patrick Santini 0 0-0 0 Jon Palmer 2 0-0 5 Alex Oropall 0 0-0 0 Isaac Manton 0 0-0 0 Mike Gianopolous 1 0-0 2 Matthew Ellsworth 0 0-0 0 Alex Wolf 4 1-2 9 Thomas Povinelli 3 0-1 8 Kyle Foote 0 0-0 0 Leonel Hyatt 0 1-2 1 Kieran Carroll 0 0-0 0 Griffin Golden 1 2-2 4 Nick Bartels 0 0-0 0 Conor Harkins 0 0-0 0 Alberto Larraguibel 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 6-10 41.

FAIRFIELD PREP (27-0)

Ryan Murphy 0 0-0 0 Keith Pettway 5 2-2 12 Thomas Nolan 4 2-2 11 Ray Featherston 2 1-2 7 Dave Zielinski 2 0-0 6 Ryan Foley 4 2-2 11 Paschal Chukwu 4 2-5 10 Pat Harding 1 0-0 2 Richard Van de Berghe 0 0-0 0 Matt Gerics 0 0-0 0 Drew Rolapp 0 0-0 0 John Murphy 0 0-0 0 Tate Duran 0 0-0 0 Allen Gibson 0 0-0 0 Joe DiGennaro 0 0-0 0 Robert Haskins 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 9-13 59.

GREENWICH 9 8 7 17 -- 41

FAIRFIELD PREP 10 16 13 20 -- 59

3-pointers: G -- Povinelli 2, Palmer. FP -- Featherston 2, Zielinski 2, Nolan, Foley.

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