Chukwu powers Fairfield Prep into SCC semifinals
BRANFORD -- Paschal Chukwu made sure his first SCC tournament game was a dandy.
And because of its junior center, Fairfield Prep's boys basketball team will make a return to the SCC semis.
Chukwu scored a game-high 21, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking seven shots, as the second-seeded Jesuits held off No. 7 Career Magnet, 68-59, on Saturday in the SCC quarterfinals.
"We did a good job of executing the plays," Chukwu said. "I think it was a good team win."
Tom Nolan scored 13 points and Dave Zielinski and Tim Butala netted 10 each as Prep improved to 20-1. The Jesuits advanced to the SCC semifinals for the third straight year. Prep had been eliminated by Career in the conference semis each of the past two.
"We've got guys who are sophomores who have never played against Career," Prep coach Leo Redgate said. "There are no demons."
The Jesuits will play third-seeded Wilbur Cross Monday at 6 p.m. at East Haven High School.
"It will be fun," Chukwu said.
Justice Phifer led Career with 12 points. The Panthers fell to 13-8.
Prep won the teams' two regular-season meetings by an average of 18 points, but Career trailed by as few as four in the second half.
Yet, the Panthers only could get to the foul line seven times, thanks to Chukwu's presence inside. Chukwu gained five of his seven blocks in the second half, despite picking up his third foul early in the third.
"We would've made it closer than that if we could've gotten to the foul line," Career coach Larry Kelley said. "The guy is a good shot blocker ... we went with our game plan, and at times it worked."
Prep's sharp-shooting guards, Zielinski and Ryan Foley, knocked down three of their four 3-pointers during an 11-2 fourth-quarter run that put the game away.
"We had to extend our plays for 3-point shots," Chukwu said. "Zielinski and Foley did a good job knocking them down."
"I was pleased for them," Redgate said of Zielinski and Foley.
Foley, a sophomore guard who did not play much during Prep's regular season, scored eight, canning a pair of key fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
"That was a gut thing," Redgate said of going with the inexperienced Foley. "We were looking for guys who could put the ball in the hoop, and I know he can do that. We gave him a chance, and he executed."
Chukwu scored 10 first-half points, and Nolan added 11 of his 13 as the Jesuits built a 12-point second-quarter lead.
But Lawrence McGill Jr. led the Panthers to a 13-3 second-quarter spurt, cutting Prep's lead to just 31-29. The Jesuits led 34-29 at halftime.
"We were right there a few times," Kelley said.
Lawrence McGill 5 0-0 11 Tyreek Perkins 4 0-2 11 Amos Ford 1 1-2 4 Kayvon McCoy 1 0-1 2 Justice Phifer 6 0-0 12 Jordan Lomax 3 0-0 6 Matt Hamilton 3 2-2 8 Lyman Depriest 1 0-0 3 Justin Campbell 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 3-7 59.
FAIRFIELD PREP (20-1)
CAREER 29 30--59
FAIRFIELD PREP 34 34--68
3-pointers: C--Perkins 3, McGill, Depriest, Ford; FP--Zielinski 2, Foley 2, Nolan.
Fouled out: C--Lomax, Ford.