NEWTOWN >> No team in the South-West Conference had beaten New Fairfield this winter.
Notre Dame-Fairfield, seeded third in the SWC tournament, came close to finally getting it done, almost pulling off an upset of the No. 1 team in Thursday’s championship game, at Newtown High. The Rebels, however, erased a five-point deficit in the second half and pulled away for a 58-50 win.
Notre Dame (18-5) got 13 points from Taylor Ceballos and 12 from Gabrielle Joseph. Kayla Croswell had eight, Whitney Fulton scored seven, Nakia Mabin had six and Raina Ceryak added four.
The Rebels (22-1) were led by championship game Most Valuable Player Emily Farrell and her game-best 18 points. Croswell, along with New Fairfield’s Bridget Zima and Sydney Gouveia also received All Tournament team accolades.
Notre Dame Coach Eric DeMarco, whose team fought off a tough second-seeded Newtown team for a wild 79-74 double overtime win the semifinal round, was proud of his team’s effort.
“We have been getting better as we have gelled,” said DeMarco, whose team won nine straight games late in the regular season en route to an 11-2 record in conference play and 16-4 mark overall.
In the championship game, the Lancers closed out the first-half scoring on a play in which Dayniera Artis executed an around-the-back dribble and dish to Ceryak for two points and a 21-19 lead with about a half a minute to play. That was the score heading into the intermission as the game remained very much up for grabs.
In the third, Croswell set up Ceryak for a basket and a 32-28 lead and, just seconds later, Crosswell hit one of two free throws for a 33-28 advantage with 3:03 to go. But the Rebels got the next six points for a one-point lead. The teams traded hoops and New Fairfield carried a 38-37 advantage into the fourth and never looked back. The Rebels cashed in on some timely rebounds and converted off turnovers to put the game away.
Down 42-37, the Lancers got to within three points when Ceballos blocked a shot, leading to Croswell’s long pass to Fulton for a layup with five-plus minutes remaining. The Rebels answered with consecutive 3-pointers, the second of which was drained by Kristen Teklits, who finished with 15 points, making it 48-39.
Mabin wrestled the ball away from a defender and scored to get the Lancers to within seven with 4:27 left, but a 7-0 run by the Rebels put the game out of reach.
“I’m very proud of the effort,” DeMarco said of his team. “New Fairfield is always a great team with a great coaching staff. They seem to make us pay for all of our mistakes.”
The Lancers haven’t made many miscues this season, and they’ll look to get back to their winning ways when state tournament action gets started in early March.
New Fairfield 58, Notre Dame-Fairfield 50
SWC Championship at Newtown
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD (50)
Kayla Croswell 2 2-4 8; Bryanna D’Arcangelo 0 0-0 0; Gabby Joseph 6 0-1 12; Whitney Fulton 3 0-0 7; Precious Montgomery 0 0-0 0; Dayniera Artis 0 0-0 0; Nakia Mabin 2 2-2 6; Raina Ceryak 2 0-0 4; Zuquila Mbachiantim 0 0-0 0; Taylor Ceballos 3 7-9 13. Totals: 18 11-16 50.
NEW FAIRFIELD (58)
Emily Farrell 6 6-9 18; Bridget Zima 5 0-0 13; Kristen Teklits 5 3-6 15; Leah Anderson 0 0-0 0; Sydney Gouveia 3 2-4 8; Eileen Ruby 2 0-0 4; Rachael Cammarano 0 0-0 0; Pam Sbarra 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 11-19 58.
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 9 12 16 13–50
NEW FAIRFIELD 8 11 19 20–58
3-pointers: ND-Croswell 2, Fulton; NF-Zima 3, Teklits 2.
Team Records: New Fairfield 22-1, ND-Fairfield 18-5