FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield Prep’s boys basketball team may not have performed as well it wanted in its first big test of the season. The Jesuits know, however, that the semester is far from finished.
Hillhouse of New Haven, the top-ranked team in the New Haven Register state poll, thumped the Jesuits, 59-44, on Tuesday at Fairfield University. Prep coach Leo Redgate believes the Jesuits learned some things in the loss and have room for improvement as the season moves forward.
“I have no doubt that Hillhouse is the best team in the entire state,’’ Redgate said. “But I don’t think we’re too far behind. Their coach knows we didn’t play very well tonight. Our team knows we didn’t play very well. We’re looking forward to our next meeting.”
Prep’s most obvious shortcoming on Tuesday was its failure to establish an inside game. Paschal Chukwu, Prep’s 7-foot, 1-inch, junior center, managed just four points and one field goal. Senior forward Tim Butala scored 10 points, but none in the first half.
“Our team is based on playing inside-out,’’ Butala said. “We have great guards on top of what we have inside. But we have to establish our inside game first. As soon as they start keying on the inside game, we’ll start to kick out.”
Prep also found out how important junior guard Keith Pettway can be. He scored six points in the first quarter, and Prep trailed 13-10. He left with three fouls midway through the second quarter and Prep trailing, 16-15. Hillhouse extended the lead to 24-15 by halftime.
“I said to Keith before the game that he’s the X factor,’’ Redgate said. “I felt if he had a good game, we’d win and if he had a bad game, we’d lose.”
If there is a positive that Prep can take away from the loss, it is that freshman Ryan Murphy is ready for prime time. He led the Jesuits with 14 points and was not intimidated or rattled by Hillhouse's pressure.
The loss does not have to define Prep’s season. The Jesuits have a tough game Friday against Xavier, and a rematch with Hillhouse in February.
“We can definitely improve from what you saw out there,’’ said Butala, who has committed to play at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next year. “We need to make sure we solidify what we know we’re good at, and improve those areas where we know there are weaknesses.”