Fairfield Warde boys basketball coach Ryan Swaller knew if his team was going to advance in the Class L tournament, it would have to stop East Catholic guards Tyler Veretto and Winston Morgan.

The Mustangs slowed Veretto and Morgan for a half apiece, but unfortunately for Warde, it was not the same half.

Veretto scored 20 of his 23 in the first half, and Morgan recorded 19 of his game-high 29 in the second as the 14th-seeded Eagles held off No. 19 Warde 65-62 on Monday night in Manchester.

"I knew they were their two players," Swaller said. "They hit big shots."

Still, Warde ended its season 11-10, its best finishing record since the school re-opened in 2004.

Morgan scored 10 points from the foul line as the Eagles shot 21 more free throws than Warde.

"They got to the free throw line quite a bit, and us not so much," Swaller said. "Whether it was us not getting to the basket hard enough or whatever that may be... that's a tough stat."

Senior guard Matt McTague led Warde with 22 points, including five 3-pointers. Senior Michael Wright scored 13, adding 10 rebounds and Greg Hyman scored 10, earning three steals.

"We all ended it fighting," McTague said.

Despite trailing by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter, Warde still had chances to tie in the final minutes. Trailing by two, McTague stole the ball in the back court from Veretto and closed in on the basket. However, East Catholic's standout guard blocked McTague's game-tying layup attempt, and maintained possession for the Eagles.

"I knew he was going to come flying through," McTague said. "He made a nice play."

"He got the stop he needed to get," Swaller said.

Wright's 3-point attempt from the top of the key at the buzzer, which would have forced overtime, hit the back iron.

Warde took control from the outset, building 10-0 advantage. Wright scored six of his 13 in the first quarter and McTague and Sam Martens each hit 3-pointers as Warde's lead peaked at 12-2.

"It was a heck of a start," McTague said. "Especially on the road."

Veretto answered scoring eight of the Eagles' 11 first quarter points as Warde led 16-11 after one.

"He's good at getting his own shot," Swaller said. "Their team is good at looking to him for a shot too."

But East Catholic stole the momentum with a 24-3 run in the second quarter. Veretto notched 12 of the 24, as the Eagles built a 33-19 advantage. East Catholic never trailed after the 6:15 mark of the second quarter, as its 1-3-1 zone forced Warde into tough shots and Pat McPadden, Veretto and Austin Calling gobbled up rebounds for the Eagles.

"We were missing and weren't rebounding," Swaller said. "They were taking us for one-and-out...they did a very good job in the 1-3-1."

The Eagles' run also coincided with Sal Siciliano's foul trouble. The senior captain picked up his second with 34 seconds left in the first and was forced to watch much of the second quarter from the bench.

"It was more tough watching that second quarter," Siciliano said. "They were stupid fouls I shouldn't have picked up."

The Mustangs held Veretto to just one second-half 3-pointer, and McTague's clutch shots kept the Mustangs in it. But Morgan-- who scored 13 straight East Catholic points in a second-half stretch-- had a response. Morgan was eight-for-eight from the foul line in the fourth, as well.

"He hit his free throws," McTague said of Morgan. "Credit to him, he's only a sophomore, he has a bright future."

Warde graduates nine seniors.

"To have nine stick with it shows the commitment they have to the program," Swaller said. "I couldn't be happier for the guys, 11-10 is a successful season."

Both Siciliano and McTague will look back fondly on their senior seasons, one that included a winning season and the Prep Holiday Classic championship.

"As much as this stinks, we did very well," Siciliano said. "Usually Warde is synonymous with bad basketball and we won the holiday tournament... and had the best record we've had. It shows we're definitely on the up and up."

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/pickensfcsports

More Information

Fact box