FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Notre Dame of Fairfield faced a tall order against Fairfield Prep and its 7-foot, 1-inch center, Pascal Chukwu, in Friday’s title game of the Fairfield Prep Holiday Classic. The mountain got even higher for the Lancers after just one quarter.
The Jesuits built a 24-9 lead after the first eight minutes and went on to defeat Notre Dame, 80-64, before a big crowd at Alumni Hall on the campus of Fairfield University. Chukwu, a junior, finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks to lead Prep (6-0).
“Our goal is to get better every game,’’ Prep coach Leo Redgate said. “We played better tonight than we have in the first five games. We were pretty consistent, and I thought our effort was terrific.”
Notre Dame (3-2) did not have an answer for Chukwu, who transferred to Prep from Trinity Catholic this year. The smaller Lancers gamely tried to stop Chukwu, and cut Prep’s lead to 58-52 with 6:40 to play in the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Clinton Davidson. Chukwu scored Prep’s next four points on dunks to start an 8-1 run and take control of the game for good.
“That’s a hard thing when you fall behind like that,’’ Notre Dame coach Vin Laczkoski said. “But we always say we want to play our best in March. Prep has a bunch of unselfish kids and they’re well coached. But when you’re under-sized like we were, and you play like that, that makes me feel like we’ll be pretty good down the road.”
Tim Butala added 17 points for Prep, and Tommy Nolan added 16. Butala had a huge third quarter, scoring nine points to help Prep maintain its lead.
Dan Upchurch scored 24 points for the Lancers, and Earl Coleman added eight to surpass 1,000 for his career. Jaylen Jennings had 16 for Notre Dame, while Davidson had 12.
Chukwu was named the tournament MVP. Butala, Upchurch and Coleman were joined on the all-tournament team by Fairfield Prep’s Max Garrett and Fairfield Ludlowe’s Patrick Gutierrez. Ludlowe won the consolation game over Warde, 55-39.