Five nights removed from the end of a 13-game winning streak, Notre Dame-Fairfield boys basketball coach Vin Laczkoski was not thrilled overall with the Lancers' play Wednesday night after their second straight victory since their impressive run ended. Notre Dame snapped out of a malaise in the first four minutes of its SWC regular-season finale against Joel Barlow at the Sister Marion Rielly Memorial Auditorium in Fairfield for a 72-61 victory.
"I'm not very happy," Laczkoski said. "We had a chance to bury them, we didn't. I want to see us bury teams."
Notre Dame, which improved to 16-4 overall, led by 11-9 in the sixth minute of the first quarter. But the Lancers, who will be the No. 1 seed for the SWC quarterfinals on Saturday, closed out the half on a 39-19 prolonged run for a 50-28 halftime cushion. Their surge was fueled the many turnovers from their sticky press, but was punctuated by eight 3-pointers. Thanks to three 3-pointers apiece by CJ Davidson and Jake Heaton, Barlow absorbed a storm of threes. Jesse McIntosh threw in a pair of threes, too.
Five of the eight first-half 3-pointers came from the left-wing/baseline corner. The Lancers' bombers were stuck in instant replay mode.
"That's all it was, eight?" said Falcons' coach Matt Whelan. "It seemed like more.
"When they shoot like that, they're always tough. They're a tough team to come back against when they have a lead like that. When they shoot like that, they get into their press and they get more energy," Whelan said.
Barlow's overall record dropped to 9-11, but the Falcons will bring their 7-7 SWC record into the quarterfinals as the No. 8 seed when they play Notre Dame at 7 p.m. at Bunnell High School in Stratford on March 1.
Three Lancers reached double figures during a night in which the senior players and cheerleaders, and their parents, were honored before the tipoff. Heaton and Jaylen Jennings scored 18 points and Davidson added 17. Barlow big man Chatham Struder scored a game-high 21 points -- 13 in the second half -- and Jack Gallagher added 12 points.
The Falcons were 11-for-12 from the foul line. They didn't shine in too many other areas, though they held their own in the battle for rebounds for the most part. Almost all of Struder's points came from underneath the rim or from nearby in the lane, many on second-chance looks.
The Falcons outscored Notre Dame in both of the last two quarters. But their rallies never gained too much momentum because of the Lancers' solid defense throughout. Notre Dame didn't move the ball as effectively and its red-hot outside shooting in the first half cooled off in the final 16 minutes.
"We had a chance there when it was (a deficit of ) 15," Whelan said. "But we'd have a turnover and missed a good look. When it's that type of lead, everything has to go your way."
Laczkoski said the Lancers were a little guilty of not sensing the urgency in the second half, protecting their lead instead of trying to expand it.
"We had an 18-point lead in the third quarter," Laczkoski said. "We let up a little in the end. We got a little lackadaisical. We were a little passive in the fourth quarter. We're a young team and we're still learning and getting better."
Laczkoski was proud of Notre Dame achieving its best ever conference record in the 19 years playing in the SWC. The Lancers finished 13-1, one game better than their 12-2 mark in 2011.
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Notre Dame 72, Barlow 61
BARLOW (9-11, 7-7 SWC)
Will Bracken 3 0-0 6 Jack Gallagher 4 2-2 12 Zachary Pompea 0 2-2 2 Chatham Struder 9 3-4 21 JR Richetelli 1 0-0 2 Bryce Fey 1 2-2 4 William Menapace 2 2-2 7 Adam Koubeck 1 0-0 3 John Tucker 2 0-0 4. Totals: 21 11-12 61.
NOTRE DAME (16-4, 13-1 SWC)
Jordan Pettway1 0-1 2 CJ Davidson 7 0-2 17 Jake Heaton 5 5-5 18 Jaylen Jennings 7 4-7 18 Jesse McIntosh 2 0-0 6 Raphael Torres 1 0-0 2 Joseph Cantey 2 0-0 5 Anthony Gadsden 1 0-0 3. Totals: 26 9-15 72.
BARLOW 13 15 18 15--61
NOTRE DAME 22 28 15 7--72
3-pointers: B--Gallagher 2, Menapace, Koubeck; ND--Davidson 3, Heaton 3, McIntosh 2, Cantey.