Notre Dame-Fairfield girls basketball wins 1st state title, defeats Newington for Class L crown

Photo of Scott Ericson

UNCASVILLE — When Notre Dame-Fairfield senior forward Kayla Tilus left the game in the second quarter with a reaggravation of a knee injury she suffered in the state semifinals, Notre Dame was trailing Newington and the season was hanging in the balance.

Rather than retreat without the LIU-bound Tilus, Notre Dame’s other seniors — Aizhanique Mayo, Taylor Gibbs and Sarah Macary — stepped up to lead the Lancers (the third seed but ranked No. 1 in the GameTimeCT poll) to their first ever state title 60-45 over No. 1 seed Newington in the CIAC Class L championship.

“We have had different scenarios all year long. Whether it has been injuries or foul trouble or this person is on quarantine. We have still yet to have a game all year where we had a full squad, including tonight,” Notre Dame coach Maria Conlon said. “We have been put in this position a million times and people keep consistently stepping up. When you’ve done it before and had success, moments like tonight are not as difficult.”

First it was Macary scoring four-straight baskets ending the first half, pulling Notre Dame within 22-20 at the break.

Then Mayo (a Marquette commit) went off, scoring 12 of her 22 points in the third quarter, starting with a big 3-pointer from the corner. Gibbs scored six of her 10 in the third as well.

Mayo said she was determined not just to win a state title but also to show she deserves consideration as the best player in the state.

“People have been saying Lilly (Ferguson) is the best player in the state and I felt like I had to prove something tonight, which I did. We got it this time and we made history,” Mayo said. “When I saw (Tilus) go down, I knew I had to step up a lot. We got this for her. We knew they were a good team like us. We followed the scouting report and we got it.”

Notre Dame did a solid job containing Ferguson, but the UMass-bound guard also missed several shots from close range, finishing with 12 points, 6 of which came in the first quarter.

“It started in the first half when (Macary) scored eight-straight points giving them the momentum,” Newington coach Marc Tancredi said. “We didn’t execute the way we wanted to and they took advantage of it. We had some really good looks and we didn’t knock them down then they came back down and made us pay. That’s what happens when you play good teams. You have to convert and if you don’t convert, it starts to pile up.”

Freshman guard Bela Cucuta’s 13 points led Newington.

From the second quarter on, Notre Dame switched from man-to-man to zone in an effort to preserve their legs. The Lancers then switched back-and-forth between man and zone the rest of the night.

“We normally like to man on a miss and 2-3 quarter court on a make but with the size of the court, I really wanted to save our legs a little bit in the first half,” Conlon said. “I condition these girls really hard. We run a lot in practice and I could see at the end of the game, (Newington) was a little tired but we were not. We played 3-2 for two possessions, then we played man but made them think it was a box-and-one but it was really just tight man on (Ferguson) and regular man on everyone else.”

Notre Dame turned the two-point halftime deficit to a 44-36 lead after three.

Notre Dame scored the first four points of the fourth quarter and Newington never got any closer than 10.

Notre Dame lost in the finals in 2016, 2013, 2007, 1989, 1988 and 1987 before finally claiming the 2022 championship.


Aizhanique Mayo, Notre Dame-Fairfield: Mayo was electric all night but was especially good when her team needed her the most.


“It feels good. This is the first time I’m holding (a state championship plague) so it feels great,” Mayo said. “At halftime, we talked about playing together and we did that all second half. We are best when we play together and we did that tonight.”; @EricsonSports


NEWINGTON15 7 14 9 — 45

NOTRE DAME12 8 24 16 — 60

NEWINGTON: Lilly Ferguson 4 0 4-10 12, Karissa Zocco 2 1 1-2 6, Arianna Barnes 1 0 0-0 2, Bela Cucuta 4 1 4-4 13, Marlie Zocco 1 1 2-2 5, Kendall Miller 0 0 2-2 2, Selah Prignano 2 0 1-2.

NOTRE DAME: Aizhanique Mayo 7 3 5-6 22, Taylor Gibbs 5 0 0-0 10, Kayla Tilus 1 0 0-2 2, Sarah Macaray 7 0 1-2 15, Rowan Houston 1 1 0-0 3, Paige Fourtin 0 0 8-8 8.