Notre Dame boys hoops upends Bunnell in key SWC matchup

In a battle of two of the top teams in the South West Conference, the Bunnell High School boys basketball team was unable to hit the shots down the stretch and Notre Dame of Fairfield broke through the Bulldog’s defense en route to the 67-56 victory.

“We missed a lot of layups and putbacks,” Bunnell head coach Pat Yerina said. “We were well under 50 percent [shooting] and a lot of that came in the key.”

With the loss, the Bulldogs’ win streak was halted at 12 games and Bunnell fell to 14-4 overall. The Lancers, the top team in the Patriot Division, upped its winning streak to eight games and improved to 13-5 on the season.

“We are on a little bit of a nice streak right going right now and we don’t really want to stop it,” NDHS head coach Vin Laczkoski said. “You have to remember that Bunnell is very talented and hopefully we will see them again down the way.”

Bunnell was paced by the duo of Donte Peeler and Ryan Pittman, as they both finished with 16 points. Aaron Samuel added 14 points for Bunnell and the team of Rashaad Spain and Pat Gough each added four points.

For Notre Dame, Jordan Pettway led all scorers with 17 points, while Jesse McIntosh and CJ Davidson both scored 16 points. Jake Heaton added 11 points and Colin Burke finished with four points.

“It’s a nice win when you beat the best and they are the best in the league,” Laczkoski said. “The kids did a great job. They made a run at us in the third quarter and going into fourth it was tied, but we didn’t panic. It’s a nice quality win, but it’s a regular season win. It’s not like we won anything yet, but we beat a good team.”

Throughout most of the game, the Bulldogs and Lancers were going toe-to-toe.

In the first quarter, a Heaton jumper gave Notre Dame the lead and and helped extend it to 11-6 on a fast break layup. However the Bulldogs stormed back, as Peeler scored the offensive rebound and putback and Samuel netted the one-handed dunk off a fast break to cut the deficit to 11-10.

The Lancers rebuilt a four-point lead, but Bunnell’s Peeler went 1-from-2 from the foul line and then scored the layup on a steal to end the first and cut the Notre Dame lead to 16-15.

Pittman started the second with a reverse layup to give the Bulldogs the 17-16 lead, but whenever Bunnell looked like they were going to go on a run, Notre Dame’s McIntosh hit back-to-back three-pointers to keep the Lancers in the lead.

After a sloppy third quarter where both teams were unable to find the basket and turned over the ball frequently, the score was knotted at 40.

However it was the fourth quarter that did the Bulldogs in. With 7:31 to play in the game, Samuel connected on a jumper to give Bunnell the 42-40 lead. That was the last bucket Bunnell would drain until 1:23 left, when Peeler hit the offensive rebound and putback that cut the Notre Dame lead down to 58-51.

“We have to go with a practice tomorrow, look and the film, review what we need to work on and go from there,” Yerina said. “We didn’t finish inside and we didn’t shoot the ball well.”

With 9.9 seconds to play, Bunnell’s Samuel hit the layup and was fouled on the play. He sank the free throw, but Notre Dame still had the 67-56 lead.

During the fourth, Pittman, who reached the 1,000-point milestone earlier this season, was held in check and scored only six points.

“We pointed Pittman the whole game because he is such a terrific player,” Laczkoski said. “He’s the engine that makes that team go. We were lucky enough that he got tired in the fourth quarter.”

“Everybody will key on him but he had his hands on the ball a lot of the time,” Yerina said. “He got to the basket, made some nice passes.”

In addition, it was the Notre Dame’s clutch foul shooting that clinched the victory. During the final frame, the Lancers finished the contest 17-for-20 from the foul line.

“In the fourth quarter when you start making free throws, it’s like dagger shots,” Laczkoski said. “We didn’t do anything differently. They just missed a few shots. We stayed with our game plan. And yes, we want to run with anybody.”

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