Jesuits pitch in to bring back title

Patrick Harding waits for Newton's Law to happen before going up. (Photo by David G. Whitham)

Patrick Harding waits for Newton’s Law to occur before going up.
(Photo by David G. Whitham)

In a game billed as a battle between well-tested backcourts, the Class LL boys basketball Class LL championship meeting between Fairfield Prep and Westhill High from Stamford twisted and turned on the performance of front court players for much of the contest at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.

Coach Leo Redgate’s top-seeded Jesuits defeated the second-seeded Vikings, 51-50, to claim its first title since the 1997 campaign — and Prep’s Patrick Harding and Joe DiGennaro played major roles.

Harding, a 6-4 center, led Prep in scoring with 13 points and the sophomore blocked two shots and grabbed four rebounds.

DiGennaro, an athletic 6-2 undersized senior power forward filled the stat sheet with six points, five boards and three assists.

Harding scored seven points in the first quarter, which ended with the game tied at 13. DiGennaro had four points in the stanza.

Westhill countered with 6-foot-4 Tyrell Alexander and 6-foot-8 Brendon Thomas.

Ryan Foley takes the ball to the basket. (Photo by David G. Whitham)

Ryan Foley takes the ball to the basket.
(Photo by David G. Whitham)

The scoring opened up in the second quarter, with Prep’s Thomas Nolan and Ryan Foley knocking down 3-pointers and Rich Kelly scoring his first five points.

Westhill, on the back of Vashon Natteal’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer, took a 29-26 lead into the half. In fact, the Vikings led for for 19:21 seconds in the game that featured seven ties.

The third quarter ended in dramatic fashion, with Nolan dribbling past half court and banking in a 3-pounter at the buzzer. Nolan’s third trey in the stanza narrowed Prep’s deficit to 44-42.

Kelly’s 3-pointer gave Prep a 49-46 lead with 3:54 remaining.

The Jesuits’ defense did the rest, holding Westhill to one basket and two made free throws the rest of the way.

Westhill’s Jeremiah Livingston, the FCIAC Player of the Year was limited to 12 points.

“We knew that being a good program, everyone (opponents) was giving us their best night,” Redgate said. “So we had to play as a team. It’s all about unselfishness. I think that ultimately, we have no superstars. To their credit, all the boys really bought into playing unselfish basketball and playing defense.”

Nolan finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds to go with three steals and two assists.

Kelly had had 12 points, Foley eight points and two steals.

Alexander and C.J. Donaldson scored 14 points each for Westhill.

Runners-up in 2014, 2013 and 2011, Nolan and Kelly agreed this had to be the season.

“This feels needed,” Nolan said of taking home a title. “If I didn’t come out with this, my whole high school career wouldn’t have felt as full.”

Kelly said, “What a great day in my life. It’s easily the greatest day I have ever had on a basketball court.”

Redgate summed it up:

“I think it’s a fitting end for a team that has had an incredible record and reputation over the last five years. They really deserve it.”

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