We’ve reached the hockey and basketball state semifinals, and there are still three teams left.
That’s a lot.
Prep’s hockey and basketball team and Notre Dame’s boys each play Wednesday for a chance to play for the ultimate prize. It’s interesting because all three teams were in the same position last year, and two were victorious. The third– ND– suffered a devastating overtime loss to eventual champ Trinity Catholic, one that sticks with each of the Lancers’ “big three”– Arkel Miles, Earl Coleman and Dan Upchurch.
From a seeding standpoint, two of the teams– Prep and ND basketball– are underdogs. From a game standpoint, I think ND is actually favored, but I’ll get to that.
But let’s break down each game at a time, starting with the most interesting.
No. 6 Prep (22-3) vs. No. 2 Hillhouse (25-1), Class LL semifinals, tonight, 7:30, East Haven High School.
Can the Jesuits repeat history and get to the Class LL finals for the second straight year?
Will tonight be Air Tarpey's last game for Fairfield Prep?
My gut says no. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. I know a lot of locals– especially those who have been critical of Prep’s schedule– will be watching the outcome of this one closely.
In Prep’s other game against a top-3 SCC team at East Haven this year– in the SCC semifinals against Career– the Jesuits led at halftime, 38-36. But the Panthers’ huge second half run left Prep in their dust, en route to a 73-53 win.
Prep star Terry Tarpey fouled out of that game, and if there’s one hole in his game right now, it’s that he’s overzealous on defense and picks up fouls quickly. I was also told– I’ve not seen Hillhouse this year– that the Jesuits and Academics look a lot a like, and the atmosphere and pace should be fun.
And despite Hillhouse’s nearly unblemished record– the Academics went through the regular season spotless, and their only loss came to Career in the SCC Finals– it has not been without drama throughout the season. Hillhouse has won four games by three points or less, including a pair of one-point wins against Career and only a two-point win over Cross.
Despite these teams belonging to the same conference, Prep and Hillhouse have not met since the 2008 Class LL state tournament. The Jesuits, the No. 22 seed at the time, stunned the 11th-seeded Academics in New Haven, 56-53.
Can Prep keep up? Yes. Will Prep be making the LL Finals again? Nope. Pick: Hillhouse 70, Prep 65.
No. 6 ND-Fairfield (21-5) vs. No. 2 Waterford (23-2), Class M semis, 7:30, Sheehan High School, Wallingford.
It’s the Lancers against the Lancers for a trip to the Class M Finals.
ND is battle-tested, talented, quick, tenacious and tough. But Waterford is no slouch either. One of these team’s will have its season end tonight without any hardware. That’ll be a pretty tough pill to swallow for either club.
ND is arguably the hotter team entering the contest tonight. ND has won 16 of 17, with only an SWC Final loss to Immaculate keeping it from perfection since Jan. 10. Waterford has been victorious in 11 of its last 12 affairs, with that lone defeat being in the ECC Tournament semis against Ledyard.
Waterford has size and ND struggled with that in the SWC Finals. However, I’ve been picking ND to reach the Class M finals since the tournament started, no reason to stop now. ND 58, Waterford 50
No. 4 Glastonbury (19-4) vs. No. 1 Prep (19-3), Division I semis, 5:30, Ingalls Rink, New Haven.
Prep, aided by defenseman Andrew Hatton and goalie Riley Wikman, has been awfully tough against Connecticut opposition in 2011-12.
The Tomahawks and Jesuits first meeting will have huge stakes.
Prep is looking for its third straight trip to the state finals. The Tomahawks have not reached the state finals since 2009, when they lost to Hamden, 4-1. Glastonbury has never won a Division I state championship, but has twice been victorious in Division II.
I know every Prep hockey fan and follower believes it is his school’s birthright to win the state championship, but Glastonbury has the chops to be where it is. The Tomahawks routed No. 13 Simsbury, 7-0, in the quarters, and stunned Darien at Ingalls on Saturday, 3-2.
But– and again I’ve been saying all year– Prep has been historically good against Connecticut. AJ Unker is healthy and as long as he and David White can connect for more than one goal, Prep will win. The Jesuits have only allowed 19 goals in 16 games against Connecticut opposition this year and rolls eight D-men. Pick: Prep 3, Glastonbury 1.
I’ll be at the hockey game for the first two periods, time permitting, and then will be writing the Prep basketball game for the Connecticut Post. Follow me on Twitter for updates and more on tonight’s action.
Pat Pickens is the sports editor of the Fairfield Citizen, a Hearst Connecticut Newspaper organization. Follow him on Twitter here.