For three quarters, in their game Tuesday night, Fairfield Prep and Amity looked about even.
But in the fourth, the Jesuits looked like one of the state’s top teams.
The Jesuits outscored the Spartans 17-5 in the final frame, capping a 19-1 regular season with a 61-46 victory.
Prep guard Thomas Nolan led all scorers with 18. Keith Pettway added 11, Ryan Murphy scored 13 for Prep. The Jesuits will be at least the No. 2 seed in the upcoming SCC Tournament and could be the top seed if Hamden beats Hillhouse on Thursday.
The victory also likely sewed up the Class LL top seed for Prep.
Amity was led by Remi Farrell, who scored 17 points. The Spartans fell to 14-5 and still can clinch the SCC Tournament’s No. 4 seed if they knock off Daniel Hand on Thursday.
Prep center Paschal Chukwu is a dominant player.
Amity’s assistant coach Mike Cofrancesco learned this first hand this year.
The Spartans’ assistant– who coached the Spartans while head coach Jeff Nielsen was on leave– watched Chukwu net 14 points on Tuesday night.
“We’re trying to get him out on the perimeter … to move him away from the basket,” Confrancesco said. “He’s a good player.”
Prep’s 7-foot junior center averaged 12.5 points per game in two games against the Spartans this year. Chukwu also grabbed 12 rebounds on Tuesday– seven of which came in the second half.
Chukwu also had two second-half steals, one of which led to Pettway’s buzzer-beating layup to close the third.
Pettway wasn’t the only player to beat the buzzer.
Dave Zielinski‘s 3-pointer at the horn got Prep even at halftime at 24.
The Jesuits looked flat in the first half and did not shoot well– Prep was 8-for-24 (33 percent) in the first half.
But Murphy deemed Zielinski’s trifecta a big one.
“Our intensity was down, and when Dave hit that shot, it boosted our intensity,” Murphy said.
Nolan had a funny quip when asked about his hot second half.
“I didn’t think I could play any worse than I did in the first half,” Nolan said. “I knew my shot wasn’t falling, so I just tried to take it to the basket.”
Nolan scored 14 of his 18 in the second half.
Cofrancesco played coy when asked if he expected the teams to meet again.
“Maybe,” he said. “It depends on what seed we get in the SCC Tournament, and who knows where the seeds will fall in the state tournament.”
Pat Pickens is the sports editor of the Fairfield Citizen, a Hearst Connecticut Newspaper. Follow him on Twitter here.