A month ago, Fairfield Prep nearly lost at West Haven in a boys basketball game in which it trailed by 10 points in the third quarter. On Friday night at Fairfield University, the Jesuits answered the question of whether the Blue Devils could upset them with a resounding no.
Prep was in control from start to finish in an 85-59 home win that was even less close than the score indicated. With the win, the top-ranked Jesuits remain perfect at 16-0 and move to 7-0 in the SCC Quinnipiac Division. The loss was the Blue Devils' largest of the season, and drops them to 8-7 overall and last in the Quinnipiac at 1-5.
With the game tied at 9-9 halfway through the first quarter, Prep began to show why it's the class of the SCC. The Jesuits ended the quarter on a 17-2 run to go up 26-11, and their lead kept growing from there. The run was anchored by Prep's defense, which pressured West Haven into ugly shots and turnovers.
"I thought we came out with some good defensive intensity, and as usually is the case with us, our best offense is our defense," Jesuits coach Leo Redgate said. "When we're in attack mode, it leads to some great offensive chances that allow us to score in spurts."
"When you don't start off well against their team, it's a wrap," said Blue Devils coach Harry Bosley, whose team lost to Prep 68-59 on Jan. 10 in West Haven. "The first time we played Prep, we matched them basket for basket, but this time we couldn't, and it was a huge problem. Our team doesn't play well from behind. We need to be in control early to win."
Nine players scored for Prep. The inside-outside duo of Tommy Nolan and Paschal Chukwu had 24 and 17 points, and Rich van DeBerghe came off the bench to score 12. The Jesuits passing ability allowed them to find open shots repeatedly.
"We like to free up our shooters by feeding the ball inside," Redgate said. "Our inside guys are very unselfish. When they're doubled, they're able to kick the ball out for wide open shot. We like to pride ourselves on being tough to guard. We don't just want it to be one or two guys having a good night. We want a well-balanced scoring attack."
After taking a 46-24 halftime lead, the teams mostly traded baskets for the remainder of the game. West Haven never got closer than 20 points in the second half.
"We're going to use this game as a learning experience about how we can be more of a team," Bosley said. "These guys need to avoid worrying about getting theirs. We want to go back to the type of basketball we were playing at the beginning of the season, and that involves everyone airing out their concerns and coming together."
The Jesuits will face another formidable challenge on Tuesday night when they travel to Middletown to play Xavier. Redgate says that Prep will treat it just like any other game.
"I'm not worried about the opponent, only how we play and if we avoid turnovers and other mistakes," he said. "We're well aware that we're not ever going to play the perfect game, but we always strive for that."
Danny Atkinson is a freelance reporter
Fairfield Prep 85, West Haven 59
WEST HAVEN (8-7, 1-5 Quinnipiac)
Gary Dudley 4 3-3 11 Thomas Brim 4 2-2 13 Eric Singleton 7 2-3 16 Aaron Spann 5 0-0 11 Kenneth Graham 2 0-0 6 Maurice Jones 0 0-0 0 Zatrell Lyons 1 0-0 2 Taylor Gee-Greene 0 0-0 0 Jason Frazer 0 0-0 0 Malachi Campbell 0 0-0 0 Malik Colbert 0 0-0 0 Andrew Ford 0 0-0 0 Fiton Imerukaj 0 0-0 0 Jean Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 7-8 59.
FAIRFIELD PREP (16-0, 6-0 SCC Quinnipiac)
Paschal Chukwu 8 1-1 17 David Zielinski 4 0-0 9 Keith Pettway 4 0-0 8 Richard Van de Berghe 5 2-2 12 Thomas Nolan 10 2-3 24 Ray Featherston 3 0-0 7 Joseph DiGennaro 2 0-0 4 Tate Duran 1 0-0 2 John Murphy 0 0-0 0 Allen Gibson 0 0-0 0 Patrick Harding 1 0-0 2 . Totals: 38 5-7 85
WEST HAVEN 11 13 17 18--59
FAIRFIELD PREP 26 20 21 17--85
3-pointers: FP--Nolan 2, Zielinski, Featherston;WH--Brim 3, Graham 2, Spann.