FAIRFIELD >> In what is developing into a top-flight boys basketball rivalry between the top two teams in the Southern Connecticut Conference and the state, score round one to Fairfield Prep.
A quick run to start the second half broke a halftime tie. The top-ranked Jesuits never trailed, winning the game 72-62 over No. 2 Hillhouse at Alumni Hall Saturday night.
Hillhouse (3-1) won three of the fourth matchups last season, including both the Class LL and SCC championship games.
“On our home court it is always nice to win especially against a very good team that kicked our butt in the state championship last year,” Fairfield Prep sophomore guard Ryan Murphy said. “I take it personal losing to a team three times.”
An 8-0 run to start the second half by Prep (6-0), Murphy (19 points) scoring six of them, gave the Jesuits the breathing room they needed.
Hillhouse was able to tie the game twice in the second quarter, the last at halftime (33 all), but never did hold the leadSaturday.
“I just don’t know if my guys were ready and understood the sense of urgency playing against them,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “When you graduate nine guys, and the new guys are not the guys who left, you can’t take possessions off to a team as good as they are.”
Center Paschal Chukwu finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and seven blocked shots. But more interesting than that was his ability to stay on the floor despite early foul trouble.
Chukwu picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter. The Academics drove to the basket on him often the rest of the first half, but were never able to get that third foul on the 7-foot-2 center.
“Coach (Leo Redgate) basically told me to, ‘Keep playing hard, not think about the (third) foul and only contest the shots you think you can block,’” said Chukwu, who has signed to play at Providence.
Said Redgate: “I think he has come a long way from picking up silly fouls.”
Chukwu did not score over the final 10 minutes of the opening half.
Hillhouse managed to hang in thanks to 16 fourth-quarter points from Shane Christie and Prep missing 17 free throws overall.
“If we hit our free throws, this game is not close,” Redgate said. “To miss 17 free throws is embarrassing, considering we are a very good free-throw shooting team.”
Raiquan Clark had 17 points, but just five in the second half.
The rematch will be Jan. 30 at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
“This is round one,” Sutton said. “We plan on seeing them another two or three times, no disrespect to the rest of the league and the LL (bracket).”
FAIRFIELD PREP 72, HILLHOUSE 62
Hillhouse 17 16 6 23 – 62
Fairfield Prep 20 13 16 23 – 72
Dion Boyd 1 0-0 2, Justin McClendon 3 0-0 6, Corey Barrett 1 0-0 2, Isaiah Lewis 2 2-2 8, Shane Christie 5 11-16 23, Raiquan Clark 7 2-4 16, Juan Sepulveda 1 0-0 3, Dontell Glover 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 15-22 62
\b-sFAIRFIELD PREP (72)
Paschal Chukwu 7 1-4 15, David Zielinski 1 2-2 5, Keith Pettway 1 7-11 9, Thomas Nolan 7 4-6 20, Ryan Foley 1 1-4 4, Ryan Murphy 5 7-13 19. Totals: 22 22-40 72
3-point goals: Hillhouse 5 (Lewis 2, Christie 2, Sepulveda 1); Fairfield Prep 6 ( Zielinski 1, Nolan 2, Foley 1, Murphy 2); Fouled out: Fairfield Prep (Chukwu); Records: Hillhouse 3-1; Fairfield Prep 6-0