FAIRFIELD—The Notre Dame-Fairfield boys basketball team is at it again. The Lancers are riding a nine-game winning streak heading into their regular-season finale tonight at New Fairfield. That’s nothing new for Notre Dame (14-5): the Lancers won 13 straight regular-season games last season and in the 2011-12 season, closed the season with 11 straight wins, then won the first two games in the South-West Conference tournament.
“I’ve been blessed with good kids who don’t stop working,” Notre Dame coach Vin Laczkoski said. “When we lost to Newtown (44-43 on Jan. 20), we didn’t come ready to play mentally and that was my fault, too. We talked (after the game) about what we needed the second half of the season. I looked at the four returning starters and said ‘Guys, you’ve been through this.’”
Among those nine wins was beating Bunnell, the two-time defending league champion, on Feb. 16 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. That was the second straight season Notre Dame beat Bunnell on that court.
Laczkoski is not only blessed with good kids who work hard, but kids who can score. His four returning starters all average in double figures, led by senior guards C.J. Davidson and Jake Heaton both averaging 15.7 ppg., followed by junior point guard Jordan Pettway (14.0) and junior swingman Jesse McIntosh (12.1). Laczkoski also noted Pettway’s 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. “These kids have bought into the next play, the next game, who we have in front of us,” Laczkoski said.
A different approach to reaching the players has also helped. Laczkoski was impressed enough by the book “Toughness,” written by ESPN college basketball analyst and former Duke University player Jay Bilas, to use excerpts from it to get his point across.
“It talks about how to face adversity head on and how to have extreme persistence and perseverance,” Laczkoski said. “To take it from a guy on ESPN they all know, it resonates more, even if he says the same things that you do.” A tough non-conference schedule, that included top-ranked Sacred Heart and third-ranked Fairfield Prep, prepared the Lancers for this run.
“You don’t want to get into a false sense of security early in the year by beating teams you are supposed to beat,” Laczkoski said. “It’s a chance to evaluate yourselves and find out what you have to work on and get better.”
Win or lose tonight, Notre Dame likely will be the No. 2 seed and host a SWC tournament quarterfinal Friday night. The Lancers will also play two home games in the Class M state tournament as the team tries to win the first state championship in school history.
By Joe Morelli, GameTime CT
Photo by: Pete Paguaga/GameTimeCT. Colin Burke (No. 22) and Jake Heaton (11) from Notre Dame-Fairfield attempt to block a shot against Sacred Heart last month.