In the final seconds of a tie game, Barlow coach Matt Whelan designed a play to get his 6-foot-5 senior center Chatam Studer a good look down low. The inbounds pass was supposed to go high to guard Zach Pompea, only Jesse McIntosh had other ideas.

The Notre Dame-Fairfield junior tipped away the pass, got control and raced downcourt, getting fouled with just 3.5 seconds left. And his two free throws were the difference in a 55-53 Lancers win in the SWC semifinals Wednesday night.

"McIntosh made a nice play," Whelan said. "He stepped into the passing lane, we were a little passive and he stepped up and made a play."

On the night for Notre Dame, several players made plays as the Lancers, now 17-5 and winners of 12 straight, advanced into the final on Friday night against two-time defending champion Bunnell at Weston High at 7:30.

"I have a really tough bunch of kids, mentally tough," Notre Dame coach Vin Laczkoski said. "They didn't give an `A' effort offensively but they battled the whole game."

C.J. Davidson kept the Lancers close throughout the first half and into the third quarter, scoring 20 points. Jake Heaton, scoreless at halftime, came alive in the second half and scored 12 points, and McIntosh connected for a big 3-pointer that gave the Lancers a 35-34 lead late in the third quarter and then made the play of the game, stealing Barlow's inbounds pass with 9.9 seconds to go.

"I knew that once I got a hand on the ball, I could chase it down and either finish it or try and draw a foul," said McIntosh, who finished with nine points. "I drew the foul and knocked down the shots."

Over the first half, the Falcons' deliberate style kept the Lancers from getting into their up-tempo, helter-skelter game, and if it wasn't for Davidson, who had 14 at halftime, Notre Dame could have been down a lot more than 23-20. Heaton scored six points in the third and opened the fourth with six more as ND opened a 45-40 lead with 5:22 to play.

But Barlow's big-man combo of Studer and Jon Tyson-Tucker (who's also 6-foot-5) pounded the ball inside and put together an 8-0 run that turned that five-point Lancers lead into a 50-47 Falcons advantage with 2:52 to go.

But ND rallied back, with baskets from freshman Woodley Monnexant and two from Jordan Pettway, the latter tying the game at 53-53 with 29 seconds left.

"We didn't panic," Laczkoski said. "Those two big guys, both seniors, they're so tough. But our kids fought. You have to give them credit, they fought like warriors."

Notre Dame handed Bunnell a 67-56 loss on February 16. The Bulldogs (18-4) haven't lost since.

"We'll prepare for them and they'll prepare for us," Laczkoski said. "It's going to be tough to beat them twice in the same season ... but we'll try."

SWC semifinals

BARLOW (12-10)

Chatam Studer 6 2-4 14, Will Menapace 4 2-2 13, Zach Pompea 3 5-7 11, Jon Tyson-Tucker 5 1-5 11, Ben Stein 1 0-0 2, Jack Pantalena 0 0-0 0, Tommy Rossini1 0-0 2, Matt McGannon 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 10-18 53

NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD (17-5)

Jordan Pettway 4 4-6 12, CJ Davidson 8 4-4 20, Jake Heaton 4 4-5 12, Colin Burke 0 0-0 0, Woodley Monnexant 1 0-0 2, Justin Federici 0 0-0 0, Ryan Keeley 0 0-0 0, Jesse McIntosh 2 4-6 9. Totals: 19 16-20 55.

BARLOW 7 16 13 17--53

NOTRE DAME 10 10 19 16--55

3-pointers: B--Menapace 3; NDF--McIntosh