FAIRFIELD — It would be near-impossible to shoot the ball better from 3-point range than Fairfield Prep did in the first half against Trinity Catholic Tuesday night. The Jesuits went 9-for-13 from beyond the arc and appeared to have one foot in the Division I tournament’s second round.
As smoothly as the shots were flying, Fairfield Prep senior Nick Rothe knew Trinity Catholic wasn’t going to leave Alumni Hall without a fight. More than that, Rothe knew that his team shooting at a nearly 70 percent clip from long range wasn’t sustainable.
“I walked right into the locker room and told everybody we’re probably not going to keep that up in the second half,” he said.
Rothe’s intuition proved correct.
Fairfield Prep’s shooting touch went cold, while Trinity Catholic turned up its defense. In the end the No. 13 Jesuits did just enough to hold off the Crusaders’ comeback attempt, winning 64-56.
Fairfield Prep advances to play No. 4 Sacred Heart on Thursday night at Wilton.
No. 20 Trinity Catholic, which relied mainly on sophomores, ends its season 8-13.
“Not all their shots were open,” Crusaders coach Brian Kriftcher said. “They shot the heck out of the ball because they’re a good team.”
Prep (16-7) led by as many as 19 in the first half. Rothe lead the Jesuits with 20 points on four 3-pointers. Adam Stone finished with 16, while Mason Reale added 11.
“We talked how we have to take advantage of the open looks,” Prep coach Mike Papale said. “I thought we did that in the first half.”
Trinity Catholic clawed back, mostly by getting the ball to Xavier Ruillano (19 points) and Rahsen Fisher (15) near the basket. Akim Joseph chipped in with 15 points.
“The energy coming out of the locker room, knowing it was a one-and-done game …we could either come out and keep going with our season or just stop it here,” Ruillano said. “We decided to not roll over. We came out with a different energy.”
The Crusaders clamped down on dense and held the Jesuits scoreless for close to eight minutes between the third and fourth quarters. During this span Trinity Catholic scored 11 straight points. A put-back by Rulliano with under four minutes left made it 52-48 — the closest the Crusaders would get.
Rothe eventually connected on Prep’s first 3-pointer of the second half, making it 55-48 with 2:58. The Jesuits turned the Crusaders over on the next possession and Rothe finished in transition allowing Prep to pull away.
It sets up a second round game for the Jesuits against the one-loss Hearts.
“They’re obviously, if not the best team in the state, one of the best, so we know it’s a challenge,” Papale said. “Our guys are really excited for it.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nick Rothe, Fairfield Prep — The senior led all scorers with 20, including a 3-pointer late in the fourth that ended Trinity Catholic’s 11-0 run.
“The future is bright, the guys are ready to go,” — Trinity Catholic coach Brian Kriftcher on his young team which got 38 points from sophomores Tuesday night.