By Eliot Schickler

Defense and depth catapulted the Notre Dame of Fairfield boys basketball team into the Class M semifinals.

Sixth-seeded Notre Dame advanced with a 57-53 victory at third-seeded Kaynor Tech Monday.

"It was a little too close," Lancers coach Vinny Laczkoski said. "We didn't play our best offensive game of the season, and we missed too many shots, but defense wins games. We held a team who scores consistently in the 70s to 53 points."

Notre Dame raised its record to 21-5, and will play against second-seeded Waterford (22-1) in the Class M semifinals Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Sheehan High School. Kaynor Tech ended its season at 23-3.

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Going into the game, Lancer senior captain Arkell Miles and junior captain Danny Upchurch were approaching 1,000 points. Miles scored his 1,000th point on a layup with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7.

"It feels good to get it, but I'm happier to get the win," Miles said.

Overall, Miles finished the game with six points and has 1,002 career points. He was an inside force with 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Upchurch needed eight points to reach the milestone, but because of too many missed shots, he had only five points, and enters Wednesday's game with 997.

Although Upchurch's shots weren't falling, he still played a big role in the victory with five assists, five rebounds and two steals.

Junior tri-captain Earl Coleman was the one member of the Lancers' Big Three to step it up on offense. Coleman and freshman CJ Davidson led Notre Dame in scoring with 14 points each.

Freshman guard Jake Heaton also stepped it up offensively for the Lancers with nine points. Heaton scored on two straight putbacks to give Notre Dame an 11-7 lead in the first quarter.

Coleman then added a coast-to-coast layup off a steal and then set up sophomore Jaylen Jennings' layup to make it 15-7. Freshman Donte Peeler helped inside.

"It's a team game," Coleman said. "If we have trouble producing, I had to step it up. CJ and Jake had key baskets, and Donte and Jaylen got some big rebounds."

Jennings said, "It takes the whole team playing together. When we play well together, anything is possible."

Davidson's layup with 2:32 remaining in the half pushed the Lancers' lead back up to eight, 28-20.

However, Notre Dame was hit with a drought after that. The Panthers closed out the half with a 14-0 run, and led, 34-28, at the break. Turnovers cost the Lancers in the first half, especially in Kaynor's late surge, as they committed 11 before the break, 18 overall.

Notre Dame forced 28 Panther turnovers, 14 in each half, 10 in the first quarter. Junior Terrence Thompson (22 points) hit a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left to cap the surge.

Kaynor's 6-6 twin towers, senior Davie McMillian and junior Tra'von Gibbs blocked six shots each.

The Lancers regained the lead, 37-36 on Heaton's 3-pointer with 3:19 left in the third quarter. Heaton's layup two minutes later increased the lead to five, 43-38.

However, the Panthers came back, and took a 47-43 lead with 5:18 left in the game.

Notre Dame countered with an 11-0 run. The Lancers took the lead on Upchurch's steal at midcourt, which led to Jennings layup for a 3-point play.

"My shots weren't falling, so I focused on helping on defense," Upchurch said. "The ball was in the air, and I went for it."

Jennings hit two layups, one off a steal, to cap the run, making it 54-47 with 3:35 to go.

However, Kaynor scored six straight points to cut it to one, 54-53 with 56.1 seconds left on senior Donnie Hester's layup. Hester set up the play by knocking the ball into junior Tre-kel Douglas' hands for the steal, and Douglas fed Hester for the layup.

Notre Dame was 1-for-5 at the free throw line in the last 1:40, which gave the Panthers an opening. Kaynor Tech trailed 55-53 after Upchurch missed two free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining and had a chance to tie it. Davidson stole it and layed it in at the buzzer to secure the win.

"We allowed them to come, and play the game they wanted to play," Panthers coach Hank Spellman said. "We're a rebounding team, but we gave them four to five second-chances in the first quarter."

The Lancers lost 62-59 to Trinity Catholic in the Class M semifinals last year. They hope to better it this year.

"It feels good, but we got here last year, and we're not satisfied," Upchurch said.

Coleman said, "It was an ugly win, but we'll take it any day. We got closer to our goal."