Faifield Prep is the last remaining undefeated boys basketball team in Connecticut.
Head coach Leo Redgate feels if the Jesuits continue to lack the defensive intensity he believes they have over the past month, that undefeated status will change.
“At some point, kids have to take ownership how they are playing defense,” Redgate said. “Either you want to play great defense or take possessions off. The way we are playing defense now, there’s not a chance we will win a (Class LL) state championship. Guys have to man up.”
Is Redgate exaggerating things? It depends on how important you think defense is for Prep. Four starters average in double figures in points, led by center Paschal Chukwu’s 15.7 per game.
No other team boasts the defensive presence of a 7-footer. Teams that challenge Chukwu inside normally get swatted away, as his nine blocked shots attest when Hillhouse tried in a 70-58 loss on Jan. 31.
What Redgate is referring to his consistent defense each possession. He believes the Jesuits should be holding opponents in the 40s, not the 50s. Since the calendar turned to 2014, only one opponent has score less than 50 against Prep: Xavier on Jan. 17 (41).
“I think we get too comfortable trading baskets with people,” Redgate said. “I would argue we are No, 1 because other teams have lost. It doesn’t mean we are the best team. If anyone watched us play against Cheshire they would hardly think we are the best team in the state.”
Cheshire outscored Prep in two quarters and only lost by two in the fourth, 14-12, in a 61-56 loss at home last Friday. The game was not decided until the final seconds.
Redgate points out Hillhouse’s performance last season. The Academics won their CIAC-record 22nd state championship 52-42 over Prep, the third time they beat the Jesuits.
In that game, Hillhouse held Prep’s starting guards, Tom Nolan and Ryan Murphy, to just three points each. Both were averaging in double figures.
“I don’t think Hillhouse won a state championship because they were better offensively,” Redgate said. “They won it because they were the best defensive team in the state. We are a far cry from being the best defensive team in the state. If that doesn’t change, we can lose to almost anybody in the tournament and I mean that sincerely.”
Prep is missing two players in its rotation. Guard Ryan Foley has been out three weeks with mononucleosis. Redgate said he will be back at the start of the SCC tournament.
The picture is not as clear for Murphy, a sophomore averaging 20 ppg. for his first six games, Murphy suffered a high ankle sprain in the Jan. 4 win over Hillhouse. Redgate hopes he will be back for the SCC tournament, but missing the rest of the season is a possibility.
“It’s 50-50,” Redgate said about Murphy’s return. “I’d like to have him back but ultimately, if he doesn’t think go at 100 percent, it’s not in his best interest to come back.”
Prep faces Hamden and Career this week before having eight days off. The Jesuits will have a bye into the SCC tournament quarterfinals March 1.