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Salters, No. 6 Notre Dame-Fairfield deal No. 3 Kolbe first loss

Notre Dame-Fairfield’s Kamryn Salters during a boys basketball game between Notre Dame-Fairfield and Kolbe Cathedral at Notre Dame-Fairfield, Fairfield on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.

Pete Paguaga/Hearst Connecticut

FAIRFIELD — Thursday night’s showdown between Kolbe Cathedral-Bridgeport and Notre Dame-Fairfield was not only the Game of the Year in the SWC, but one of the most anticipated boys basketball games statewide.

Notre Dame made sure Kolbe didn’t leave its gym with the zero still intact.

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Kamryn Salters blistered the Cougars for 28 points to lead Notre Dame to the 85-67 win at sold-out Sister Marion Reilly Memorial Auditorium Thursday night in a matchup of top-10 teams.

“They’re a great team and we’re a great team. We’re just going back and forth every single year and I love it. I love playing the best of the best,” Salters said. “Tonight we got the best of them.”

The sixth-ranked Lancers (16-1), whose only loss was at fourth-ranked Ridgefield in December, now have the inside track to the top seed in the SWC tournament. They are currently on a 13-game winning streak.

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“We’ve got poised kids, we really do. These guys are seasoned,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kriftcher said.

It was the most points third-ranked Kolbe allowed all season. In fact, it was the most points the Cougars have allowed in a regular-season game since the 2017-18 season.

“You have to give them a lot of credit, they played really well tonight. … It was a fantastic environment,” Kolbe Cathedral coach John Pfohl said.

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The loss for the senior-laden Cougars (17-1) not only means they will be the likely No. 2 seed when the SWC tournament begins in two weeks, it also means second-ranked Notre Dame-West Haven is the only remaining undefeated CIAC team.

But having an undefeated season wasn’t the goal for Kolbe. The program is measured by one thing, and one thing only: the championships it wins.

“I wish I could tell you we are measured differently than we are. We are measured on our conference championships and state titles. That’s just the reality of who we are. We have to own it and accept it,” Pfohl said.

The prevailing thought is this will not be the only time these two teams will face one another this season. This has been the matchup in the last three SWC tournament finals.

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“It sucks to lose. Hopefully, we will see them again,” said Kolbe’s Najimi George. “We are going to use this moving forward.”

Said Pfohl: “Our goal is to be in the final in our league for the fifth straight time. Whether or not we play them or not is inconsequential. As long as we are there, we don’t really care who’s on the other side.”

Both teams are in Division I again, so a third meeting in March also remains a possibility.

“Yes I do expect to see them again and I hope we get their best shot,” Salters said.

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Salters scored 11 straight points in the opening quarter, getting to the basket with ease. Notre Dame went up by as many as 17 points (27-10) in the first quarter.

“He wants to be great. He puts in the work every single day,” Kriftcher said about Salters. “Ultimately, a leader needs followers and he’s got a lot of guys who are following his lead. He plays at his own pace and he never really gets sped up. He is the most underrated player in the state, in my opinion, by far.”

Kolbe went on a furious 14-0 run to open the second quarter. The Cougars finally drew even with just under 2 minutes left in the quarter (32-32), but were never able to get the lead back it held early in the game.

Notre Dame closed out the first half on a 7-0 run. 

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Kolbe tied it again at 45 in the third quarter. And again, Notre Dame answered with a 9-1 run. The Lancers started to pull away in the fourth quarter.

“The one thing we focus on from the beginning of the year is being mentally strong and mentally connected,” Salters said. “We know if we can stay mentally collected, we’ll have a good game and take the game over.”

Notre Dame won the 2021 and 2022 SWC titles.

Player of the game

Kamryn Salters, Notre Dame: The junior co-captain finished with 28 points, including 11 straight in the first quarter.

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“We’re in a good place. We’re very fortunate to have won 17 games. A lot of teams don’t win 17 games in three years.”
Kolbe Cathedral coach John Pfohl

Notre Dame-Fairfield 85, Kolbe Cathedral 67

(at Fairfield)

Kolbe Cathedral  12  20  18 17 – 67
Notre Dame-FF  27  12   20 26 – 85

Kolbe Cathedral (67)
Zach Gidden 1 1-2 3, Rodney Desir 1 0-0 2, Marquise Owens 2 2 3-6 13, Najimi George 5 3 5-5 24, Genesis Rodriguez 1 2 1-1 9, Luke Walker 2 1 1-3 8, Lucas Piovar 1 2 0-0 8. Totals 13 10 11-17 67 
Notre Dame (85)
Nate Charlot 4 1 0-0 11, Logan White 7 2-2 16, Parrish Edmond 4 2 1-2 15, Nasir Dunlap 1 1-1 3, Josh Charlot 0 1 2-2 5, C.J. Fay 1 0-0 2, Kamryn Salters 8 1 9-11 28, Semen Chomohrytskyi 0 1 2-4 5. Totals 25 6 17-22 85. 

Technical foul: Edmond. Records: ND 16-1; KC 17-1.

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