— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) February 27, 2020
FAIRFIELD — Fairfiled Prep’s Finn Donegan was lying in wait, and when the opportunity arose he took it in the Jesuits’ SCC first-round boys basketball game against Jonathan Law at Alumni Hall on Tuesday night.
Donegan’s breakaway basket with under a minute remaining, and two free throws at the 8-second mark, led Prep to a 40-37 victory.
“I wasn’t thinking (after steal led to breakaway), I just knew I had to get a bucket,” Donegan said. “I didn’t even see the ball go in. I just put it up.”
Prep defeated Law in a defensive battle where scoring points was at a premium.
Seeded No. 8, Prep (12-9) will play No. 1 seed Notre Dame-West Haven (19-1) in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Branford High.
— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) February 26, 2020
Up 38-37 after a series of timeouts, Donegan went to the line and made both foul shots with 8.7 left. Law had a 3-pointer go off the mark and Prep controlled the loose ball as the horn sounded.
“I’ve told them that it they play hard and play tough — things they can control every game — that good things will come their way,” Prep coach Mike Papale said. “Our guys believe in our man defense. Sometimes during a timeout, I look in their eyes and see how determined they are. This (game) was all about defense.”
The teams had split games in the regular season, and Tuesday’s was tied at 30-30 going into the fourth quarter.
Law took a 35-30 lead on Jon Vitale’s 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Justice Smith.
Finegan went inside for a basket three minutes in. Prep’s Aidan Harding Max McGillicuddy each made two free throws to tie the game — for the seventh time — at 36-all.
Harding’s third block of the period came at the two-minute mark.
Donegan’s transition basket broke a four-minute scoreless string from the field by both teams.
“I told my players that if we had done more in the first 31 minutes and 50 seconds that we wouldn’t have needed a 3-pointer,” Law coach Jamie Anderson. “The second half of the season, Prep has played very well. I believe they found their identity. Mike has them playing a physical brand of basketball, they work well together, and they are a great rebounding team.”
Law strung together six straight points midway through the second period to take a 12-6 lead. Prep answered with a 10-point run, with Aidan Harding closing the spurt with a pair of buckets from the block.
The third quarter did little to separate the rivals from Prep’s 18-14 halftime lead. Brian Felag scored three hoops for Law. Diontae Eady had five points and two assists in the quarter that ended deadlocked at 30.
Papale said: “Credit to Law. They are well coached and were well prepared for our stuff. We just made a couple more plays at the end. Now we get Notre Dame. They are the total package. I know our guys will be excited to play and that they will give maximum effort.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Fairfield Prep’s Aidan Harding scored 10 points, went over that number in rebounds, and blocked five shots. Two of the blocks came early in the fourth quarter when Law was looking to stretch its lead.
“It’s way more enjoyable, there is a lot more into it (meeting Law in the playoffs). It’s a lot more intense from the jump. It means so much more knowing it is win or go home.” — Prep’s Finn Donegan