FAIRFIELD -- Though ND-Fairfield tried with all its might, Paschal Chukwu and the Fairfield Prep boys basketball team were simply too much. The Jesuits built a 19-point first-half lead and held on, claiming the Prep Holiday Classic 80-64, on Friday night at Alumni Hall. "I'm proud of all of them," Prep coach Leo Redgate said. "I think this is a great tune-up for us for the rest of the way."
Chukwu, who finished as the tournament's most valuable player, scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked five shots. The 7-footer also altered several ND shots and helped the Jesuits outrebound ND 30-15. "I do it every game," Chukwu said.
Prep forward Tim Butala, who was named to the all-tournament team, scored 17 points, grabbing 10 boards. Thomas Nolan scored 16 and freshman Ryan Murphy tallied 12 as Prep improved to 6-0. "Our goal is to get better every game," Redgate said. "We played better tonight than we played the first five games."
Lancers guard Dan Upchurch finished with a game-high 24 points. ND's junior forward Jaylen Jennings scored 16, and CJ Davidson added 12. ND fell to 3-2. "I tip my hat to Prep, they're a great team," ND coach Vin Laczkoski said. "They have unselfish kids, they do a great job."
The Jesuits opened on fire, building a 17-4 lead. Prep's aggressive press and man-to-man defenses forced ND mistakes early. Prep's lead peaked at 28-9 early in the second, thanks to Dave Zielinski's personal 7-0 run. "Our strong quarter has been the third quarter," Nolan said. "(Redgate) said, 'you've got to play this first quarter like you play the third quarter,' and we did that, and that's how we got that big lead."
ND closed to within 10 at halftime, then got as close as six, 58-52, early in the fourth on Davidson's 3-pointer. "When you watch a team like us, who was outsized like that, we're going to be pretty good down the road," Laczkoski said. "We cut it to six at one point."
"I knew they would go on a run," Redgate said. "They're too good and too well-coached to not go on a run." But Prep answered with an 8-1 spurt, keyed by a pair of alley-oops from Murphy to Chukwu, boosting the Jesuits' advantage back to 13, 66-53. "No one really panicked," Redgate said. "They made a run in the third, and I think a sign of a feisty team is one who punches back, and I'm proud of the boys for doing that."
All Tournament Team from left: Tim Butala (Prep), Dan Upchurch (ND), Paschal Chukwu (MVP-Prep), Earl Coleman (ND), Patrick Gutierrez (Ludlowe) and Max Garrett (Warde).
In the tournament's consolation game, Fairfield Ludlowe used a 21-8 run to close the game, blowing by rival Fairfield Warde, 55-39. "This game was about us playing better," Ludlowe coach Brian Silvestro said. "I think we did what we had to do tonight."
Connor Peterson led the Falcons with 17 points and six rebounds and Patrick Gutierrez -- Ludlowe's all-tournament team selection -- had 16 points and six rebounds. The Falcons improved to 3-3. "It was a big win for us," Peterson said. "We really wanted this one to get back to .500."
Max Garrett led Warde with 13 points and five rebounds. The Mustangs fell to 1-5. "I feel like it's a bad dream," Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. "I'm trying to figure out why we didn't come to play."
Ludlowe's man-to-man defense forced Warde turnovers, keying the fourth-quarter run. Gutierrez scored nine of his 16 in the second half. "We made some shots," Silvestro said. "Defensively, that tends to happen. When you play that way, you tend to score points."
After Warde led 14-11 through one quarter, the Falcons outscored their crosstown rivals 19-9 in the second. Mark Malone scored seven of his nine in the second, all coming on a 7-0 run that gave Ludlowe its largest first-half lead, 27-18.
"I thought he had a good game," Silvestro said of Malone.