Unbeaten Fairfield Prep ends Cardinals’ run

Greenwich High had the pace it wanted and matched Fairfield Prep each time down the floor, before the top-seeded Jesuits used an 11-0 run to close the first half on their way to a 59-41 over the fourth-seeded Big Red before a crowd of 2,012 at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on Wednesday night.

Prep (24-0) will play second-seeded Bridgeport Central (23-1) on Saturday night at 8:15 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The Hilltoppers defeated sixth-seeded Ledyard High, 67-55 in their semifinal.

“At times we turned the ball over and beat ourselves,” Greenwich coach Bill Brehm said after his team finished with a 21-3 record. “Certainly you can attribute that to them being a good team.”

After Greenwich tied the game at 15 on a pair of Griffin Golden free throws at the 4:52 mark of the second period, Prep held Big Red to 0-for-5 shooting from the floor, and forced two turnovers, to take a commanding 26-15 lead.

“That was huge … That was the separation that starting things,” Brehm said.

Prep’s Keith Pettway, who finished with 12 points, began the 11-0 run with a foul-line jumper. Thomas Nolan (11 points) scored on a spinner from the left side, and after the 7-0 Paschal Chukwu had one of his four blocked shots, Pettway located Ray Featherton open for a long 3-pointer to run GHS into a timeout. Greenwich misfired, and Featherton lofted the ball above the rim for Chukwu, who dunked it home for two of his 10 points. Pettway then used the rim to deny the 6-9 Alex Wolf a shot at blocking his reverse lay-up. C.J. Byrd, who paced the Cards with 12 points, ended the run, and the half, with a nifty scoop shot in traffic to cut the deficit to 26-17 at the half.

“You have to focus so much on him it takes you out of the game,” Brehm said of Chukwu, who added 11 rebounds.

“He’s certainly evolved from the player he was two years ago at Trinity Catholic. He is double the player he was then.” Prep coach Leo Redgate said, “I like our play on the perimeter and I thought Keith’s defense on C.J. was exceptional. Our goal was to stop C.J. and not let one or two guys beat us. At this point in the season you have to take away those guys.”

Brehm said of his team’s difficulty scoring points: “Pettway is a great point guard and when you put him with Paschal that’s the difference. Having those good guards helped, and when we looked to double (down low) they hit those threes.”

Wolf began what was a standoff for much of the game between two talented centers, by blocking a Chukwu shot on Prep’s first possession. Leonel Hyatt hit a free throw, Byrd scored on a breakaway after a steal by Jonathan Palmer, who then scored inside off an assist from Byrd for a 5-4 lead. Prep’s Dave Zielinski hit a 3-pointer before Tom Povinelli fed Wolf for a bucket and a 7-7 tie. Ray Featherton drained a three, but Povinelli banked in a runner to make it a 10-9 game after one period.

Byrd arched a shot over Chukwu from the baseline to keep pace early in the second quarter, but the Jesuits took control over the final four minutes of the half. Points were harder to come by for both teams in the third quarter, but again the Jesuits limited GHS’s offensive output and outscored the Cards 13-7. Povinelli sank a 3-pointer to get the Big Red going, but it wasn’t until another 3:42 went off the clock that Byrd scored on a floater.

Strong defense, with Kyle Foote playing well off the bench, kept it a single-digit deficit, and Byrd bucketed an almost impossible basket over Chukwu, but Prep scored on its last three possessions of the third quarter to stretch its lead to 39-24.

Good looks to open the final period resulted in Chukwu’s three-point play and a 41-24 lead. Byrd and Povinelli hit 3-pointers in the final period, Golden scored from the baseline, and Wolf had a hoop and a free throw, but Prep’s Zielinski, Pettway and Nolan each made a brace of free throws down the stretch.

C.J. Byrd drives upcourt in Greenwich's semifinal against Fairfield Prep Wednesday, March 19, at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. (David Whitnam Photo)

C.J. Byrd drives upcourt in Greenwich’s semifinal against Fairfield Prep Wednesday, March 19, at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. (David Whitnam Photo)

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