Tears of joy for Jesuits

Thomas Nolan and Prep coach Leo Redgate share a moment. (Photo by David G. Whitham)

Thomas Nolan and Prep coach Leo Redgate share a moment.
(Photo by David G. Whitham)

“I think we that was the slowest second — I had tears of joy; could have been tears of sorrow,” was how Fairfield Prep senior Thomas Nolan described his feelings when Westhill of Stamford’s Vashon Natteal’s corner 3-pointer bounced off the rim and the Jesuits’ pursuit of a state championship was secure at 51-50 before a raucous crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night.

Natteal’s potential game-winner came after the Vikings’ C.J. Donaldson rebounded a missed Nolan free throw with 11 seconds remaining.

No 1 Prep, which last won a state basketball title in 1997, completed its season at 26-2.

No. 2 Westhill, the FCIAC champions, finished 25-2.

The game was tight throughout. It was tied at 13 after one, Westhill held a 29-26 lead at the half on a Natteal trey.

Nolan’s 3-pointer from just inside mid-court cut Westhill’s lead to 44-42 after three quarters.

Patrick Harding finished with a team-high 13 points for Prep. Nolan and Kelly scored 12 points each.

Tyrell Alexander and Donaldson scored 14 points each for Westhill. Jeremiah Livingston finished with 12.

“I’m so proud of the school, our parents, our fans,” Prep head coach Leo Redgate said. “The boys love each other…I’m so lucky to be their coach.”

The feeling is mutual.

“I ran straight to Leo,” Nolan said on his first thought after the buzzer sounded. “I hugged him and told him I loved him. He takes so much heat when we lose and gives us the credit when we win.”

The score was tied seven times, the last at 46-46.

Kelly nailed a 3-pointer at 3:54 of the final period, before Livingston made a pair from the foul line at the 2:04 mark.

Kelly converted a brace of freebies with 40 seconds left, but Westhill closed within 51-50 on Donaldson’s acrobatic layup with 16 ticks remaining.

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