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Norwalk Rally Falls Short in State Playoff Loss

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk High’s boys basketball team came back from a 17-point second-half deficit to throw a huge scare into favored Fairfield Prep before falling, 63-58, in the first round of the Class LL Tournament on Tuesday at Fairfield University’s Alumni Hall.

The 27th-seeded Bears finish the season at 10-11. Prep, the No. 6 seed, advances to a second-round game Thursday at home against No. 11 Westhill High School.

Trailing 61-58, Norwalk’s Jabari Dear launched a three-pointer with 4.3 seconds left that rattled in and out. Prep got the rebound, and Thomas Nolan hit two free throws to ice it for the Jesuits (21-3).

“It looked good when it left his hand; he had good form. It was a clean look,’’ Norwalk coach Tom Keyes said. “It just didn’t go in. He had a great game, and I’m proud of the way our team fought back.”

Dear, a junior guard, scored a team-high 20 points, and Roy Kane Jr. added 14. Terry Tarpey scored 28 for Prep, and he converted his steal into a thunderous dunk with 3:12 left to snap a 55-55 tie to put Prep ahead for good.

Norwalk trailed 31-28 at halftime, but Prep went on an 11-0 run to begin the third quarter and built a 42-28 lead. The Jesuits went up by 17 twice, the last time at 49-32 with 1:30 remaining.

The Bears fought back in the fourth quarter behind Dear and Kane, who combined for 15 points. Kane’s three-point play with 4:01 left tied it at 55-55.

After a Prep miss, Norwalk came down with a chance to take its first lead since the first quarter. Tarpey stepped into a passing lane and raced downcourt for a rim-splitting dunk. Norwalk never drew even again.

“I think the kids played as hard as they could,’’ Keyes said. “That’s what we want Norwalk basketball to be about. We were down a few players, but they didn’t quit. There’s no quit in Norwalk kids. They battled and fought, and it hurts that we weren’t able to pull it out. No disrespect to Prep, but I think if we had gotten ahead or gone to overtime we would’ve pulled it out.”

Saeed Soulemane added 11 points for Norwalk, and Nick Boccanfuso contributed eight. Boccanfuso and Luke Sweeney got significant minutes as Rasheen Thompson was saddled with foul trouble in the fourth quarter. They played key parts in the run to help bring Norwalk back.

“We played in the fourth quarter with a freshman, juniors and some junior varsity players,’’ Keyes said. “They stepped up and got some key minutes in a state playoff game. That’s going to be a good experience for them.”

Thompson and Spencer Murray-Dais did all they could to contain Tarpey, Prep’s talented senior forward. In the end, it was another close loss for a Bears team that ended the season with four straight losses, including two in overtime.

“This season was a learning experience for everyone,’’ Keyes said in wrapping up his first year. “Not everything went right. I can do a better job. The players can do a better job. The key thing is we learn from it and build upon it, and build the type of team and program that we are capable of.”

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