Harding, Foley lead Fairfield Prep past ND-West Haven
BRANFORD -- Fairfield Prep's dynamic duo of Patrick Harding and Ryan Foley was simply too much for Notre Dame of West Haven to overcome.
Harding, aka Mr. Inside, and Foley, aka Mr. Outside, were basically unstoppable in Saturday's Southern Connecticut Conference tournament quarterfinal game at Branford High. Foley had 29 points, draining four 3-pointers -- three in the fourth quarter -- and Harding scored 14 points and grabbed 23 rebounds as the Jesuits won 71-56 to advance into Monday's SCC semifinals against Hamden at 7:45 p.m. at East Haven High.
The Green Dragons are the only team to defeat Prep (20-1) this season, winning 72-68 on Feb. 6. Tommy Nolan did not play for the Jesuits in that game due to a sprained ankle.
"They probably have four of the best seven players in the league on their team," Notre Dame head coach Jason Shea said. "And when you have that kind of personnel, it's hard to stop or fixate on stopping one person because the others can all hurt you at any time."
And that's what happened. After three quarters of having Harding battle in the low blocks for easy layups, Notre Dame was forced to alter its defense to try to take away that part of Prep's game plan. But when it did, that opened up the outside for Foley, who in a span of three minutes buried three 3-pointers to turn what had been a six-point Prep lead into a comfortable 15-point cushion.
"(Foley) missed some shots, he didn't necessarily have his best game, but he played hard the entire game," Prep head coach Leo Redgate said. "And that's all I ask of my players to do. We have a lot of kids that are ready to step up and execute when their time comes."
And while Redgate might have been stingy with the praise toward Foley, he wasn't with the chemistry that the Jesuits showed against the Green Knights.
"We play a nice style of basketball. It's a quick pace. You get quick, nice open looks as opposed to pull-up, fade-away 3s," Redgate said. "You can score a lot of points without taking bad shots. A lot of people think we run and gun; we don't run and gun, we take smart shots, we try to share the ball and we get everyone involved. Usually when you do that, you don't need to hold onto the ball as hard or as long."
Along with Foley's 29 and Harding's double-double, Nolan added 16 for the Jesuits, who have now won six straight. Karim Cisse paced Notre Dame (12-10) with 18 points, while Patrick Doyle added 17 and Michael Mullen 11.
Playing an aggressive defense, Prep raced to a 20-9 first-quarter lead and pushed that out to 27-11 with five minutes left in the first half as Nolan canned a 3. But then, the Jesuits got a little sloppy with fouls.
Redgate was whistled for a technical foul and after seven free throws and a Doyle jumper, Notre Dame was within 28-20 with 1:40 left in the second before Prep notched the last five points to take a 33-20 lead at the break.
Harding made sure the Prep lead stayed in double figures with six points in the third quarter.
"My inside game has improved a lot," Harding said. "When everyone is playing well, then I'm playing well because I'm in a one-on-one opportunity. They're not doubling me so that makes it easier for me."
Having to double Harding opened up the perimeter and Foley made the Green Knights pay with a trio of dagger 3-pointers -- and a fourth coming from Matt Grerics -- that turned a 47-41 thriller into a 59-44 cushion for Prep.
"I told the guys that sometimes, good teams make good plays," Shea said. "We took the kind of shots that we wanted them to take, but they made them, so it's a great job by their players. We showed a lot of heart fighting back."
They just couldn't overcome Prep's dynamic duo.
NOTRE DAME (12-10)
Kameron Matthews 0 0-0 0, Ben Bagnoli 2 4-4 8, Michael Mullen 3 4-6 11, Karim Cisse 7 0-0 18, Patrick Doyle 6 2-2 17, Jalanni White 0 2-4 2, Chukwudi Dikko 0 0-0 0, Dylan Reynolds 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 12-16 56
FAIRFIELD PREP (20-1)
Tommy Nolan 5 4-8 16, Rich Kelly 3 1-1 7, Ryan Foley 11 3-3 29, Patrick Harding 7 0-0 14, Joe diGennaro 0 1-2 1, Matt Gercis 1 1-2 4, Robert Haskins 0 0-0 0, Allen Gibson 0 0-0 0. Will Lucas 0 0-0 0, John Kelly 0 0-0 0, John Murphy 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27 10-16 71
NOTRE DAME 9 11 18 18--56
FAIRFIELD PREP 20 13 14 24--71
3-point goals: Notre Dame: Mullen, Cisse 4, Doyle 3. Prep: Nolan 2, Foley 4, Gerics.
Fouled out: Prep-Rich Kelly.