ND-Fairfield advances to SWC boys basketball semifinals
FAIRFIELD -- It was written in magic marker on the white board outside the Notre Dame-Fairfield locker room. Three words that sum up every team's aspirations when the postseason starts.
Survive and advance.
And that's just what the Lancers did. Upset in the first round of the SWC tournament last season, Notre Dame didn't want it to happen again. And thanks to 17 points from Jesse McIntosh, the Lancers survived Bethel's upset bid and advanced into the SWC semifinals with a 61-48 win Friday night at the ND gym.
"It wasn't a Picasso by any means offensively but defensively it was," Lancers coach Vin Laczkoski said. "We played good, hard defense. Bethel had a nice game plan, they spread us out a little bit and we got a little frustrated because we weren't shooting the ball well. Those things happen but our tenacity and our mental toughness got us through the first round."
The victory was the 11th straight for the Lancers, improving their record to 16-5 and sending them into a Tuesday night semifinal matchup with Barlow at 5:30 at Bunnell. Bethel drops to 12-9 and will play next in the CIAC tournament.
"I couldn't be prouder of my guys coming in here and hanging with them," Bethel coach Dennis Morsey said. "We knew that they were going to try and force the tempo, get up and down the floor and make us rush to do what we don't want to do."
But for three-plus quarters, it was Bethel controlling the tempo and making Notre Dame do things they it want to do. With five minutes to play, the Lancers were holding a slim 43-39 lead when McIntosh nailed a 3-pointer. Bethel answered with a basket from Hayden Duffy before C.J. Davidson connected for another 3-pointer to give Notre Dame a 49-41 lead.
"They're a deep team, they go nine or 10 deep and I think that was the difference," Morsey said. " We got a little tired and we missed some free throws and they hit some big shots late."
Those back to back 3-pointers gave the Lancers just enough breathing room down the stretch as Bethel was forced to foul, where ND made 10 free throws over the final 3:45 to lock down the win.
"We always try to talk and switch and help each other out on defense as much as we can," said Heaton, who finished with 10 points, one of four Lancers in double figures. "We played pretty solid defense the whole way."
Davidson and Jordan Pettway each had 13 for the Lancers, while Bethel's Dylan Nyborg led everyone with 20 points. Dylan Olson added 11 for the Wildcats.
Bethel led early 10-6 before Notre Dame got its transition game in gear and used a 17-6 run to open a 23-16 lead with six minutes left in the second quarter. The Wildcats trailed by seven at halftime and by seven (39-32) heading into the fourth quarter, but kept chipping away and got within four after a pair of Olson free throws before McIntosh and Davidson hit those back-breaking 3-pointers to put the Lancers in control.
"We rely on each other to hit those shots," Heaton said. "We're all looking to come up big at the end."
And this time, the Lancers did.
SWC quarterfinals at Bunnell
Matt Marx 2 0-0 4, Dylan Olson 4 2-6 11, William Daniels 1 2-3 4, Hayden Duffy 4 0-0 9, Dylan Nyborg 8 4-6 20, Joseph Liquori 1 0-0 2, John Jerolimo 0 0-0 0, Jacob Hernandez 0 0-0 0, Mike Hogan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 8-15 48
NOTRE DAME (16-5)
Jordan Pettway 5 3-5 13, Woodley Monnexant 2 0-0 4, Jesse McIntosh 4 8-14 17, Colin Burke 0 0-0 0, Jake Heaton 2 5-8 10, CJ Davidson 5 2-3 13, Noreaga Davis 2 0-0 4, Justin Federici 0 0-0 0, Ryan Keely 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 18-30 61
BETHEL 14 7 11 16--48
ND-FAIRFIELD 16 12 11 22--61
3-pointers: B--Duffy, Olson. ND--McIntosh, Davidson, Heaton.