Jesuits meeting all challenges

The top-ranked Fairfield Prep basketball team downed visiting Xavier High of Middletown, 71-43, in an SCC Quinnipiac Division matchup at Alumni Hall on Jan. 17.
Dave Zielinski scored a game-high 21 points for the Jesuits, who improved to 10-0. The senior guard knocked down six 3-pointers.
Paschal Chukwu added 17 points, Keith Pettway 14 and Thomas Nolan 10 for Fairfield Prep, which went on drop Career Magnet from the ranks of the unbeaten on Sunday with a 63-58 win at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
Nolan led Prep with 19 points against the Panthers (8-1).
Facing Xavier in a division showdown, Prep blew the game wide open with a 26-2 run in the third quarter — building on its 37-26 halftime cushion.
“I said to the guys, ‘I shouldn’t have to light something under your you know what, at all,’” Jesuits’ coach Leo Redgate said. “They need to be hard on themselves as well. They need to bring that intensity.”
Brandon McPherson kicked off the third quarter with a basket for the Falcons, before Chukwu answered by popping out for a short jumper.
After Chukwu missed a pair of free throws, the Jesuits reeled off 24 consecutive points over the next five minutes.
Ryan Foley notched seven points during the stretch, including a banked jumper that capped the flurry.
Nolan and Pettway tossed in five points apiece and Chukwu added four — two coming on a thunderous dunk.
Zielinski, who scored 15 points in the first half, connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing help Prep establish a 63-28 advantage when the dust settled.
“It was huge because it opened up Paschal,” Zielinski said of Prep’s 3-point sharpshooting. “We try to get the ball inside to Paschal and back out so it opens up the outside. Once we start hitting from outside, we get it back inside to him. I think it’s unstoppable.”
From there, the Jesuits lead never shrunk below 30 points. Even staked to such a lopsided lead, Prep continued to execute its offense flawlessly.
“I know I’m being picky,” Redgate said. “But we need to be focused for thirty-two minutes. Regardless of whether or not we’re up twenty, thirty or one or down ten. It’s the focus and the intensity that makes our team good.”
Xavier (7-2), playing without standout junior guard Elijah Pemberton who missed the game due to illness, started off strong.
Zielinski knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing to give Prep its first lead, 7-6, before Thomas Jackson countered with a driving layup for Xavier.
Kaleb Lutton’s basket with three seconds left in the opening stanza gave the Falcons a 10-7 after one. Lutton scored in the paint again to provide Xavier with its largest lead of the game, 12-7.
“If we’re intense, we are an okay team,” Redgate said. “If we aren’t intense, we’re an average team at best. That first quarter was living proof of it.”
Prep fired back with a 15-2 run to take control of the game for good. Zielinski collected a pass out of the post from Chukwu and canned a 3-pointer to provide the Jesuits with a 22-14 edge.
The Falcons narrowed their gap to 32-26 on McPherson’s 3-pointer with under a minute left in the first half.
But, Pettway drained a jumper from beyond the arc and Chukwu beat the buzzer with a slam to increase the Prep margin to 35-26 at the break.
Prep dominated the second half, cruising to their 10th straight.

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