One of my colleagues asked me Thursday why I cut my vacation short to
cover the Todd Burger Holiday Girls Basketball Tournament.
It’s a fair question. Like many adults, I rarely get seven consecutive days off, and here I was coming back to work to attend two mid-afternoon contests after our deadline had passed.
I feel an immense responsibility to attend the Burger Tournament every year. Todd, after all, was my predecessor at the Fairfield Citizen. And it is because of his lobbying that such a tournament exists.
Todd and I may not subscribe to the same methodology, but we were both hired by the same woman, former Citizen editor Pat Hines. Hines used to reflect, glowingly, about Todd, and I’ve never forgotten that.
I’ve personally covered the tournament three of my five years here– including 2009’s single-game format– and appreciate what it means for the town and for our newspaper. It’s wonderful to see Todd’s legacy living on with the annual tournament.
What’s most wonderful is that the tournament also gives Todd– who died in 2006 of cancer at just 49 years of age– the chance to donate to the cause that unfortunately took him. Tournament director Dave Schulz announced that 100 percent of all proceeds from the tournament go to the American Cancer Society in Todd’s name.
Warde coach Dave Danko had a working relationship with Todd, but the two often spent time together at various establishments around town. Danko, when asked about the tournament, shared Hines’ sentiments.
“He meant a lot to the girls and boys programs,” Danko said Thursday, “and the athletes at Fairfield High, because he cared about them. He sincerely took an interest in them.”
Todd wouldn’t have been pleased to see Brookfield crash the Ludlowe/Warde party for the second straight year.
But that’s exactly what the Bobcats did.
Lisa Schang’s first varsity coaching win came in last year’s Burger Tournament semis over Ludlowe. Then Brookfield nearly crashed the entire tournament, before Warde stole the game in double overtime.
Yet, the Bobcats, led by Julia Depoi, built a 13-point first-half lead and held on for a 46-42 win over the Mustangs Thursday.
The Mustangs shot just 9-for-21 from the foul line, which effectively doomed Warde’s chances of winning. Although the Mustangs fell, Danko was happy and saw growth.
Freshman Mollie Kerrigan stood out to me, scoring seven points and providing Warde with high-energy on defense.
Kerrigan was just 1-for-9 from the foul line.
Brien McMahon nearly made the consolation game an all-Fairfield affair.
The Senators led by seven with just six minutes to play, putting a tremendous scare into the host Falcons. Still, a 12-0 run helped Ludlowe reach the Burger Final for the fifth time in six tries, 45-40.
Playing without junior captain Julia vonEhr, sophomores Trish Auray and Caroline Pangallo picked up the slack. Auray scored nine and Pangallo led the team with 16 points as Ludlowe improved to 4-3.
Brookfield will look to become the first team from outside Fairfield to ever win the Burger Tournament, when it meets Ludlowe Friday at 4 p.m.
I’ll be there, offering updates on Twitter.
Also tonight, Fairfield Prep and ND will square off for the Prep Holiday Classic.
The Lancers, searching for their first tournament championship since the tournament re-started with four Fairfield schools in 2004, squeaked by Warde on Wednesday in overtime. They’ll be led by guards Dan Upchurch and Earl Coleman.
Prep used a huge second half to roll Ludlowe on Wednesday. The Jesuits
have won their Holiday Classic five times since the format changed in 2004.
It’d be hard for me to offer analysis, since I’ve not seen either Prep or ND. However, based on what I’ve been told, Prep is the favorite. ND does not have anyone who can come close to Paschal Chukwu’s size. Chukwu can alter shots also, and is an intimidating force.
I think if anyone’s capable of pulling Chukwu from the basket and penetrating inside, it’d be ND. Vin Laczkoski is a smart coach, and I think if the Lancers can rebound, their speed in transition will keep the game close.
In the Prep Classic consolation game, I think Ludlowe and Warde are also contrasting styles.
Ludlowe features a pair of big men, Warde is led by strong guard play.
I think they’re close. This is a big game for each team, too. Warde is only 1-4, and if it loses a game it could win tonight against Ludlowe, it’d have to go 7-7 to simply qualify for the state tournament.
Ludlowe, with a win, can get back to .500 and would just be five victories from the state tournament.
I’ll be at both of those games as well.
Final: Brookfield 50, Ludlowe 40
Consolation Game: Warde 50, McMahon 28.
Prep Holiday Classic
Final: Prep 70, ND 65
Consolation Game: Warde 50, Ludlowe 47 (OT).
Pat Pickens is the sports editor of the Fairfield Citizen, a Hearst Connecticut Newspaper organization. Follow him on Twitter here.