FAIRFIELD >> Forget about the difficulty of beating a team three times in a single season. How about four times?
Throw in the facts that Hilhouse was the defending Class LL state champion and the state record-holder with 22 state championships. But none of that mattered on Monday night.
Fairfield Prep is moving on – to the Class LL semifinals – after thrashing Hillhouse 71-47 before a sellout crowd of 2,500 at Alumni Hall in this LL quarterfinal-round matchup.
“We still have the tears from last year,” Prep center Paschal Chukwu said. “To beat them four times has to come down to making the big plays.”
Said Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton: “As hard as it is to coach a talented team, I think Leo (Redgate, at Prep) does a great job with it. I know it may seem easy to people to coach a lot of talent, but, trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks.
“I hope they go on and win the championship and Larry Kelley and the Career Panthers will have to carry the torch for New Haven (in Class L).”
A 16-7 run that lasted the entire third quarter put Fairfield Prep (26-0) ahead 45-31. Chukwu had eight of his game-high 20 rebounds in the third quarter.
It only got worse from there for the Academics (20-6). Sutton tried several different combinations, but none of them had any effect on the Jesuits.
Hillhouse’s comeback on March 5 almost ended up forcing overtime in the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament final. Prep make sure Hillhouse stayed down double digits on Monday.
“It’s tough to score the ball on them,” Sutton said. “Offensively, we couldn’t buy a bucket, free throws that we missed and a couple of shots that I thought were goaltends. Add all that up and it took the air out of our guys.”
Fairfield Prep will face No. 4 Greenwich on Wednesday in the semifinals at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. It’s a chance for Chukwu to match up with someone similar in size – Greenwich center Alex Wolf is 6-foot-10, 4 inches smaller than Chukwu.
“When I’m playing someone I’m really a lot taller than, it’s hard to adjust,” Chukwu said. “(Wolf) is a really tall guy, so it is definitely good. The cheap fouls you get (guarding someone much shorter), you won’t get them against (someone of similar height).”
Chukwu added 15 points and four blocked shots, but it was Prep’s guards who carved up the Academics. Keith Pettway had a game-high 26 points while Tommy Nolan added 19, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
“Hillhouse is a great defensive team. Coach wanted us to face guard their best players (Shane Christie and Raiquan Clark) and just play defense the rest of the way,” Pettway said.
Hillhouse made just two baskets in the third quarter – one apiece from Clark and Christie. Clark finished his career with 14 points and 14 rebounds while Christie ended his with 13 points.
FAIRFIELD PREP 71, HILLHOUSE 47
(at Fairfield Prep)
Hillhouse 8 16 7 16 – 47
Fairfield Prep 11 18 16 26 -71
Wayne Whyth 0 0-0 0, Joe Kasperzyk 0 0-0 0, Dion Boyd 0 2-2 2, Corey Barrett 2 0-0 5, Troy Walters 0 2-3 2, Isaiah Lewis 3 0-0 6, Shane Christie 4 2-5 13, Raiquan Clark 6 2-3 14, Aaron White 2 1-2 5. Totals: 17 9-15 47
FAIRFIELD PREP (71)
Ryan Murphy 0 0-0 0, Keith Pettway 7 12-19 26, Thomas Nolan 6 5-5 19, Ray Featherston 2 2-2 8, Dave Zielinski 0 0-0 0, Ryan Foley 1 0-0 3, Paschal Chukwu 7 1-2 15. Totals: 23 20-28 71
3-point goals: Hillhouse 4 (Barrett 1, Christie 3); Fairfield Prep 5 (Nolan 2, Featherston 2, Foley 1); Records: Hillhouse 20-6; Fairfield Prep 26-0
Below: Fairfield Prep’s Tom Nolan with a sweet crossover move for a basket late in the third quarter.