HAMDEN >> For 44 consecutive regular season games, the Fairfield Prep boys basketball team was the victor, mainly against Southern Connecticut Conference rivals.
On Friday night, it was finally someone else’s turn.
Hamden made the key plays down the stretch to upset second-ranked Fairfield Prep 72-68 at home in front of an exuberant crowd to snap the Jesuits’ streak that dated back to January of 2013.
“It feels really good. I’m so happy our team got the win,” said Hamden’s C.J. Seaforth, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “They are an excellent basketball team.”
Said Fairfield Prep coach Leo Redgate: “I think Hamden, when healthy, is a top 10 team in the state. Their crowd was terrific. I think it says a lot about our league and our division.”
Hamden was in a similar position a month ago, but saw Prep guard Tom Nolan score Prep’s final seven points to win in Fairfield.
Nolan wasn’t involved in Friday’s rematch, missing his third straight game with a badly sprained ankle. But his teammates weren’t going to make it easy for the Green Dragons.
Hamden (11-3) overcame a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter and survived four ties with its SCC Quinnipiac Division rival to take a 66-65 lead on a Seaforth free throw with 2:20 left.
Then, after Pat Harding (22 points, 13 rebounds) threw up an airball on a baseline jumper, Hamden spread out the Jesuits, who were in a man-to-man defense.
“Once we realized they weren’t extending out as much (on defense), there was no need to force it. Time-and-score situation is the biggest thing,” Hamden coach Jarrad Beck said. “They knew they had to value the ball on the last possession. That’s when the game was lost the last time.”
Hamden got the easy basket, a back-door layup by Dylan Noble with 1:11 left, to push the lead to three.
Harding had a chance to even the game at 68 on a three-point play with 31.4 seconds left. He missed the free throw, then rebounded his own miss, but Noble drew the charge 3 seconds later, fouling Harding out.
Rich Kelly and Ryan Foley both committed consecutive turnovers for Prep, but the Jesuits still had a chance in the final seconds now trailing 70-67. Kelly was fouled with four seconds left, then made the first free throw.
Redgate called for timeout. Kelly missed the next free throw intentionally, but was called for a lane violation. Seafort made both free throws with 3 seconds left to seal the victory.
“We haven’t had an atmosphere like that in a while at home,” Beck said. “Tonight doesn’t mean anything if we lose (today against Amity).”
Prep (14-1) is now just one game ahead of both Xavier and Hamden in the division race.
“They are disappointed,” Redgate said. “I regret maybe not having a loss last season (before losing in the Class LL state final to Bridgeport Central). There is a lot of pressure being undefeated.”
Foley had a game-high 23 points for Prep. Hillhouse was the last team to beat the Jesuits during the regular season.
HAMDEN 72, FAIRFIELD PREP 68
Fairfield Prep 17 19 15 17 – 68
Hamden 24 15 15 18 – 72
FAIRFIELD PREP (68)
Ryan Foley 10 1-1 23, Rich Kelly 1 7-9 10, Matt Gerics 2 0-0 5, Patrick Harding 5 12-16 22, Bobby Hoskins 1 0-0 2, John Kelly 1 0-0 3, Joe DiGennaro 0 3-4 3. Totals: 20 23-30 68
Blair Johnson 4 2-4 11, Dylan Noble 7 0-3 15, CJ Seaforth 5 8-9 18, Andrew Rice 0 1-2 1, Christian Scott 3 3-3 9, Michael Servetas 5 1-1 13, Oliver Graham 0 0-0 0, Trevor Osborn 1 2-3 5. Totals: 25 17-25 72
3-point goals: Fairfield Prep 5 (Foley 2, Kelly 1, Gerics 1, Kelly 1); Hamden 5 (Johnson 1, Noble 1, Servetas 2, Osborn 1); Fouled out: Hamden (Harding, Gerics.); Records: Fairfield Prep 14-1; Hamden 11-3