BRIDGEPORT >> Fairfield Prep center Paschal Chukwu can dominate a boys basketball game without ever scoring a single point.
Greenwich turned the ball over 19 times during Wednesday night’s Class LL state semifinal. Some were self-inflicted, but many of them were because of the presence of the 7-foot-2 Chukwu.
Chukwu obviously was not the only reason top-seeded and top-ranked Fairfield Prep advanced easily past No. 4 seed Greenwich 59-41 at Webster Bank Arena. But his 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots do tell an important part of the game’s story.
“Personally, I take pride in trying to block shots,” Chukwu said. “I try to go for every block, so I think it gets in some people’s heads.”
Said Greenwich coach Bill Brehm: “You focus so much on him it takes you out of your game. He’s certainly evolved since he was at Trinity (Catholic) two years ago, there is no doubt about that. He is double the player he was then.”
Most times, Chukwu is almost a foot taller than his personal opposition. Greenwich had 6-10 center Alex Byrd, who did score nine points. But he too struggled against Chukwu.
Prep returns to the LL final for the third time in the past four seasons, seeking its first championship since 1997. Standing in the way Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena will be another FCIAC opponent, No. 2 seed Bridgeport Central. Game time is 8:15 p.m.
“You have to make each team where it is all building toward that moment, where you are playing your best at the end of the year,” Prep coach Leo Redgate said. “I think we are playing very well.”
An 11-0 run late in the first half turned a 15-15 game into a 26-15 lead. Now Greenwich had to play catch-up, driving into the lane against the 7-footer
The Cardinals committed as many turnovers (seven) as points scored in the third quarter. Prep’s advantage grew to 13 points (37-24) and the rout was on.
“That was the separation that started the whole thing,” Brehm said. “That allows you not only to get confidence as a team but to take chances (on defense). We’ve done that to teams this year.”
Keith Pettway led the Jesuits (26-0) with 12 points. He also drew the defensive assignment on Greenwich guard C.J. Byrd, helping hold the senior to 10 points.
“Our goal was to stop C.J., to not let him have a big night,” Redgate said. “We didn’t want to have one or two guys beat us. At this point of the season now where you have to take away opponent’s weapons. Even more impressive than his offense, I thought Keith’s defense on C.J. was phenomenal.”
Said Brehm: “I thought Pettway was a huge difference in the game. As a pure point guard, putting him with Paschal, I thought was the difference tonight. If they don’t have a point guard, they are nowhere near the same team.”
Who will win the Class L girls volleyball soccer championship?
No. 1 Woodstock Academy (21-0)
No. 2 Joel Barlow (21-1)
Total Response: 85 Votes
FAIRFIELD PREP 59, GREENWICH 41
Greenwich 9 8 7 17 – 41
Fairfield Prep 10 16 11 22 – 59
C.J. Byrd 4 2-3 10, Tom Povinelli 2 0-1 5, Leonel Hyatt 0 1-2 1, Griffen Golden 2 2-2 6, Alex Wolf 4 1-2 9, Jonathan Palmer 3 0-1 8. Totals: 15 6-11 41
FAIRFIELD PREP (59)
Keith Pettway 5 2-2 12, Thomas Nolan 4 2-2 11, Ray Featherston 2 1-2 7, Dave Zielinski 2 0-0 6, Ryan Foley 4 2-2 11, Patrick Harding 1 0-0 2, Paschal Chukwu 4 2-6 10. Totals: 22 9-14 59
3-point goals: Greenwich 3 (Povinelli 1, Palmer 2); Fairfield Prep 6 (Nolan 1, Featherston 2, Zielinski 2, Foley 1); Records: Greenwich 23-4; Fairfield Prep 27-0