Trojans fall to Lancers at SWCs
Going into the SWC tournament, the Weston boys basketball team won four straight games.
Weston defeated previously-unbeaten Immaculate (20-1), and had two comeback victories during this surge. However, the seventh-seeded Trojans faced a hotter team, Notre Dame of Fairfield Saturday at Masuk. Second-seeded Notre Dame remained on fire with its 12th straight victory, a 64-45 verdict over Weston.
"The score didn't tell the tale of the game," Trojans coach Mike Hvizdo said. "We were down three in the third quarter, and the game got out of hand in the end. We had good looks but the ball didn't fall in the first half. If our shots went in, and we made more free throws, it would have been a four-point game at the half."
The Lancers raised their record to 17-4, and faced seventh-seeded Masuk yesterday after press time in the SWC semifinals. Weston dropped to 12-9 and await its seed for the Class M tournament.
Notre Dame led throughout, and opened the game with an 8-0 lead. Junior captain Danny Upchurch set the tone offensively for the Lancers by either scoring or setting up the first eight points of the game. Upchurch hit the game-opening layup, and set up the next three baskets.
"We did a good job on them defensively," Lancers coach Vinny Laczkoski said. "I knew how good Weston was playing [going into the tournament], but we're playing good, too."
The Trojans struggled at the free throw line, and dealt with an unfriendly rim. Weston was 5-for-12 from the charity stripe in the first half, 7-for-14 overall, and didn't score its first points until senior captain Max Molinsky hit two free throws with 2:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior captain Evan Blitzer's layup with 16.2 seconds left was the Trojans' first field goal of the game, and cut their deficit to eight, 13-5 after one quarter.
The Lancers forced 11 turnovers in the first half, 18 overall, while committing 13 miscues, nine in the first half. Junior captain Earl Coleman was Notre Dame's defensive sparkplug, and finished the game with four steals.
Lifting the Lancers inside was 6-4, 230-pound senior captain center Arkel Miles. Miles had 20 rebounds, and was dominant inside, grabbing almost every rebound that came his way. He also boxed out, which paved the way for sophomore Jaylen Jennings to grab eight rebounds.
The trio of Upchurch, Miles and Coleman carried Notre Dame to a 28-13 halftime lead.
Weston senior captain Lyle Mitchell (eight points) was also dominant on the boards with 16 rebounds, eight in each half. However, when Mitchell was getting a breather, Miles and Jennings were unstoppable in the paint.
"Lyle can't be the only one rebounding," Hvizdo said. "When he was out, the younger kids had trouble rebounding, which comes down to inexperience."
Despite being down by 15, the Trojans weren't ready to concede defeat, and set their sights on their third comeback victory since Feb. 14, which looked plausible in the third quarter. Molinsky (three rebounds, five assists) had 13 points and hit three 3-pointers. His third trey cut the deficit all the way down to three, 33-30 with 3:23 to go in the third quarter.
Mitchell (one steal, two blocked shots, three forced turnovers) and Molinsky (one blocked shot, two forced turnovers, two charges drawn) helped the Trojans on defense.
Blitzer (four rebounds, one assist, one charge drawn) also had 13 points, and layup with 1:50 left put the deficit back to three, 35-32.
"I felt good," Blitzer said. "I came in focused and ready to play."
However, Lancer freshman C.J. Davidson scored on a putback, and Coleman went coast-to-coast layup off a steal. Upchurch had a game-high 23 points, and swished a 3-pointer to extend the lead back up to 10, 42-32, with 39.3 seconds remaining, which was the score after three quarters.
"Give Weston credit because they came back," Laczkoski said. "We stopped them, and Danny, Arkel and Earl made their layups."
Senior J.D. Simons (four points, one rebound), junior Charlie DiPasquale (three points, two rebounds, three assists), sophomore Ethan Lee-Tyson (two points, one rebound, one assist, one steal) and freshman Matt Folger (two points, one rebound) also scored for Weston.
"We had low energy, and our shots weren't falling," Blitzer said. "We'll come out in states with more energy."