Boys Basketball Class LL Championship
Fairfield Prep 51, Westhill 50
By Ned Griffen
Special to CIACsports.com
MaxPreps photos by Mike Braca
UNCASVILLE — So this what Fairfield Prep’s championship dream was going to come down to: clinging to a 1-point lead with Westhill’s Vashon Nattael taking an open 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The shot missed, and the top-seeded Jesuits won the CIAC Class LL title, 51-50, before a crowd of 5,654 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“My heart stopped,” Jesuits Rich Kelly said. “I didn’t breathe. It looked good. It was short, then (it was) literally one of the happiest moments of my life.”
Prep (26-2) had lost in the previous two LL championships. Saturday’s win was the third for the program and first since 1997.
“We’re like a family,” Kelly said. “We all just didn’t want to let our family down. That’s how we won.”
The Jesuits were unbeaten headed into last year’s LL final and led Bridgeport Central by as much as 19 points in the second quarter.
Central rallied and went ahead in the final 21 seconds to win, 76-73.
“If you lose at the end of the game because of a three, then you lose,” Prep coach Leo Redgate said. “I’ve been here too many times to know that none of this really matters. It matters to the media and the fans, but hopefully we coach because we like to teach. And I really believe that this year was a tremendous year as far as our growth was concerned.”
Tommy Nolan had 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals for the Jesuits and Pat Harding scored 13. Kelly scored 12.
Tyrell Alexander and C.J. Donaldson both had 14 points and five rebounds for the second-seeded Vikings (25-2), the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference champion.
Jeremiah Livingston missed 6 of 7 shots and scored 12 for Westhill. He averaged a team-high 24.1 points.
“My kids, the season that we had, you can’t take anything away from them,” Vikings coach Howard White said. “(Nattael) had a good look. He had a good look; a good shot. It just didn’t fall.
“The main thing is telling them to keep their heads up (to) those seniors that played, and to those underclassmen, to take this as a learning opportunity and just grow from this.”
The game was tight throughout with Westhill having the largest lead (34-28, 6:16 left in the third quarter).
The Vikings had a chance to take a five-point lead into the fourth quarter when Nolan chucked up a shot from just past halfcourt. The shot banked in for a 3-pointer and cut the Jesuits’ deficit to 44-42.
“(That) was the dagger,” White said.
Nolan made two free throws to tie the game at 46 with 6:07 remaining.
Kelly hit an open 3-pointer to push Prep ahead for good, 49-46, with 3:54 left.
Kelly added two free throws to push his team ahead, 51-48, with 40 seconds on the clock.
Donaldson countered with a layup 24 seconds later.
Nolan missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11 seconds remaining, setting up Westhill’s final shot.