Terry Tarpey didn’t like what he saw as he glanced up at the scoreboard during the third quarter of Thursday night’s Class LL state tournament game against Westhill. Trailing by six points in a game that was starting to slip away, Fairfield Prep’s 6-foot-5 senior forward decided to make some alterations.
“I didn’t want this to be my last home game at Prep,” said Tarpey, whose game can best be described as violently eloquent. “I didn’t want my last game on this court to be a loss.”
Unwilling to see his standout career come to an end, Tarpey took matters into his own talented hands, scoring 13 of his team’s next 15 points to give Fairfield Prep a 42-37 lead.
The sixth-seeded Jesuits then took command in the fourth quarter and rolled to a 62-53 victory over No. 11 Westhill in the second round of the Class LL tournament at Fairfield University’s Alumni Hall.
Westhill (15-8) did a decent job of limiting Tarpey’s opportunities, but sometimes there’s no defense against a player who shoots 9-for-18 from the floor. Tarpey did just that, finishing with a game-high 26 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists to send Fairfield Prep (21-3) into the Class LL quarterfinals where it will host No. 14 New Britain (14-8) Monday night.
The Hurricanes posted a 66-61 overtime victory over No. 3 Hartford Public on Thursday to give the Jesuits an unexpected but welcome home game.
“At this point it’s all mental,” Fairfield Prep head coach Leo Redgate said. “If they believe they can beat anyone, they will.”
New Britain is going to have to find a way to stop Tarpey, enjoying a brilliant state tournament thus far.
Tarpey had 26 points and 12 rebounds during a 63-58 victory over Norwalk in the first round then put up the same numbers against another tough FCIAC opponent.
“I thought we did a very good job on him,” Westhill head coach Howard White said. “But he got very aggressive in the third quarter and we didn’t do a very good job of boxing out. Give him credit. He’s an excellent player.”
Westhill used a 6-0 run to start the third quarter to take a 33-27 lead, but Tarpey converted on a 3-point play to make it 33-30 with 4:53 left. Tarpey then showed off his wide range of talent by blocking a shot by Romario Narrine in the paint then turning it into a pullup 3-pointer on the other end of the floor to tie the game 35-35.
Tarpey then scored the final five points of the third quarter to give Fairfield Prep a 40-37 lead and opened the fourth with a nice scoop shot off a feed from junior Tim Butala (13 points, four rebounds).
That kick-started an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter that gave Fairfield Prep a 48-37 lead. Another 8-0 run later in the frame made it 56-39 and that was it.
“I think we realized we really needed to pick it up,” said Tarpey, who will play at William & Mary next season. “We just started playing great defense, started running our plays well and just got it done.”
Westhill took a 37-35 lead with just over two minutes left in the third quarter on a basket by Sam Dorissaint, but the Jesuits held the Vikings without a field goal until Chris Walters connected with three minutes left in the fourth.
Fairfield Prep senior Mike Matera had the tough task of guarding Westhill senior Tony Dobbinson, one of the most elusive points guards in the FCIAC. Matera made the lockdown look easy, holding Dobbinson to just four points over the first three quarters.
“It all started with Mike Matera’s defense on Dobbinson,” Tarpey said. “We’re always confident we can pull out a win if we play great defense, and Mike did a great job on (Dobbinson) tonight.”
Nine of Dobbinson’s 13 points didn’t come until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.
“Mike Matera was the game-changer tonight,” Redgate said. “That was his role, and he executed it wonderfully.”
At times, Westhill looked like the better team over the first two quarters, getting quality production from Walters (16 points, five rebounds) and solid work on the boards by Dorissaint (eight points, eight rebounds).
But the Vikings made a number of momentum-changing mistakes while holding their lead in the third quarter, including a missed dunk by Dorissaint and a huge traveling call on Walters on a run to the basket after a great feed from Dobbinson (four assists).
“When that traveling call was made, that’s when it all caved in on us,” White said. “We had all the momentum. Then the call was made and that’s what triggered everything.”
Tarpey took just six shots during his 13-point explosion, but connected on four of those while going 4-for-5 from the foul line.
“I think that’s a testament to how we run things. Our shot selection is outstanding,” Redgate said. “We can’t do that unless our team focuses on being a team.”
Right now, Prep looks like a very good one.