MIDDLETOWN >> Fairfield Prep used a big second half to pull away from Xavier and defeat the Falcons 67-54 in a Southern Connecticut Conference game played in front of more than 400 at the Art Kohs Gymnasium Friday evening.
“I thought we played good defense, much better in the second half,” said Prep coach Leo Redgate, who saw his team improve to 6-5. “This is how we want to play defense. It’s a little harder without Patrick Harding [6-8 center, shoulder injury], but I was pleased.
“I also liked that we had balanced scoring with three in double figures [almost four as Brian Noone had 9]. When we do that, we’re harder to guard.”
Xavier (5-5) came out hot and jumped to a 13-2 lead halfway through the first quarter, largely on the shooting of Mitch Nappi (22 points), who had four three-pointers in the first quarter. Xavier led 23-13 after one, but Prep weathered the early barrage of treys and answered with their own — the Jesuits had eight treys — and Phil Vlandis had 19 of his 26 points in the first half as the Jesuits cut the lead to 36-33 at the break.
“We had a great start; we shot so well early,” Xavier coach Mike Kohs said. “But it’s tough when you live and die with threes. I kind of thought we might be in trouble as they were able to score inside.
“Then in the second half [John] Kelly and [Bobby] Haskins destroyed us inside.”
Kelly had 16 points, 10 in the second half and Haskins had 16.
“I thought things began to change from about the five minute mark of the second quarter on,” Kohs said. “Their defense was outstanding and Vlandis torched us, particularly in the second quarter. Then their inside game got us in the second half. And the scary part is they played without Harding. That’s a very good team.”
An old-fashioned three-point play by Vlandis tied the game 36-36 early in the third quarter and Prep took the lead for keeps, 41-40, on a trey by Haskins with five minutes to go in the quarter.
Prep (6-5) led 50-46 after three, then pulled away through the fourth quarter, taking a double-digit lead, 60-49, on a hoop by Haskins with 2:23 left to play.
The Prep defense gave up 23 points to Xavier in the first quarter, but then held the Falcons to 31 the rest of the way, including just 18 in the second half.
Prep was 20-for-48 from the field for 42 percent while Xavier was 19-for-53 for 36 percent. Xavier was often limited to one shot in the second half as Prep took command of the backboards.
Besides Nappi, Jackson Benigni was also in double figures with 17 points, but the rest of the team could manage just 15 points.
Xavier is home Monday with Notre Dame-West Haven, which is ranked No. 2 in the New Haven Register/GameTimeCT media poll.