Lancers roll over SMSA
Few could blame Notre Dame-Fairfield for having a letdown, going from the raucous atmosphere of a tightly contested SWC title game defeat nearly a week ago to a rather subdued home tilt against a vastly inferior opponent.
Fortunately for the Lancers, not being at the top of their game still resulted in a comfortable victory to begin their quest to capture the school's first state title.
Daniel Upchurch scored 18 points and Arkel Miles added 10 and hauled in 16 rebounds to help ND-Fairfield past SMSA of Hartford in the first round of the Class M state tournament 54-36 at Notre Dame High School.
"We came out slow, but we picked it up early in the third quarter," Miles said. "That's not good at all but we just realized we needed to step it up."
Earl Coleman added 15 points for ND-Fairfield, which used its athleticism on defense to force countless Tigers turnovers and holding the visitors to just 22 points over the final three quarters.
"Defensively we didn't do anything wrong," Lancers coach Vin Laczkoski said. "We did a great job creating turnovers and playing defense; but offensively we made a lot of mistakes and that's not us."
Despite the comfortable victory, the Lancers realize they will have to step their collective games up if they are to make a deep run in the postseason.
"We didn't play one of our better games," Laczkoski said. "But that happens sometimes. We had a little bit of a letdown after the championship game in the league."
"We still won by 20 points. That's pretty good, right?"
While the contest was a battle between two teams heading in the completely opposite directions, the game was surprisingly close in the early going, as the Lancers only left the court at the break up 26-20. However they rarely looked threatened and came out of the break an entirely different outfit.
SMSA (9-12) had lost six of their final seven games but began the game brightly, trading blows with the hosts midway through the second quarter, and even pulled to with one with 4:19 left in the half. However Upchurch's three-point play and Coleman's put back immediately put the Lancers back in control.
Once the Lancers were able to pick up the pace in the second half, the close contest eventually turned into a blowout. Transition buckets by Upchurch and Donte Peeler highlighted an 11-4 run to begin the second half stretched the lead to double-digits and put the Tigers beyond reach.
With the first round now behind them, four victories now are all that stand between a historic accomplishment for the sixth-seeded Lancers.
"Right now we are trying to take it one game at a time," Miles said. "We have to pick it up, myself included. We have to come out with a lot more focus."
ND-Fairfield, beaten in last season's semi-finals to eventual Class M Champion Trinity Catholic, is determined to bring the crown to ND for the first time ever.
"We'll be alright, Laczkoski said. "We're going to be right in the mix, and if we shoot a little straighter and execute offensively we will be dangerous."