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Tuesday, March 20 Sports

Unbeaten Prep pulls away from Amity for 12th straight win

Fairfield Prep's basketball team used patience on offense and a stifling defensive effort to turn a somewhat lopsided game into a complete blowout, en route to an 83-52 triumph over host Amity on Friday night in Woodbridge in an SCC game.

Amity was on the verge of making things a bit interesting late in the third quarter. The hosts had overcome blocked shots by Prep's 7-footer, Paschal Chukwu, on back-to-back possessions to score five points and get a deficit, which had once ballooned to 22 points, down to 15 at 57-42.

Then the Jesuits, No. 1 in state polls, went on a massive run (16-0) that spilled into the fourth period, and Prep improved to 12-0 overall. Amity fell to 3-7.

The Jesuits led 49-30 at the half behind Chukwu's 10 points, eight of which came in the first quarter, and a pair of 3-pointers each from David Zielinski, Ryan Foley and Thomas Nolan. For the game, Chukwu, Zielinski and Nolan all had 18 points. Foley scored 11. Amity was paced by David Ryan's 16 points.

Prep scored the last 10 points of the third, highlighted by a Foley 3-pointer and a Chukwu dunk off a feed from Ray Featherston, who had come up with an offensive rebound of a missed free throw. It was 67-42 Prep as the game went to the fourth.

The Jesuits were strong on offense down low and outside. Prep coach Leo Redgate thought some of his players had tired legs because they hadn't played a game in nearly a week. But he found plenty of positives on this night, including effort. "I think we were consistent with our energy," Redgate said.

Chukwu thought his team played well, but said it can improve by staying on top of its game and performing at a high level through all four quarters.

"I liked our inside-out stuff, and I think we're a tough team to beat if we do that correctly," Redgate said of the kick-out plays that led to open shots. "We still have to get better with rotating off jumpers and traps."

Featherston led Prep with eight assists. Chukwu had 13 rebounds, and Zielinski and Nolan pulled down seven and six. Chukwu came up with six blocked shots, Zielinski had five steals and Nolan picked up four takeaways.

A long no-look pass from Nolan led to Foley's layup to start the fourth quarter scoring. Featherston later lobbed a no-look setup to Chukwu, who finished the alley-oop for a 77-46 lead.

Not that the Jesuits were never not in command, but that 16-0 run was a turnaround within a game for a team that established an early lead and never looked back. Patience with the ball was a key during that pull-away stretch.

"I think it ultimately comes down to making an extra pass on offense. When we take a quick shot we run into trouble," Redgate said. "When we make the extra pass, we're a good basketball team."

"If we're patient on offense, that's when we're our best," Nolan said.

But it wasn't just about the offense. Another factor in that huge second half run was "defense, we stepped it up big time," said Zielinski, adding that the play of the Jesuits without the ball led to good opportunities on offense.

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Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter