This year’s hardwood series goes to Fairfield Ludlowe.
The Falcons swept Tuesday night’s doubleheader with a pair of resounding
defensive efforts. Ludlowe’s girls trumped rival Warde 53-42, and in the nightcap, the Falcons smothered the Mustangs 42-30.
The games were dubbed the “Coaches vs. Cancer” games and were played in honor of the late Walter Fitzgerald. “Coach Fitz,” as he was known, died in 2010 of cancer after serving as a coach and educator in Fairfield for years.
Somehow, Ludlowe’s boys team continues to win games playing in the 40s.
The Falcons have not scored 60 points in a game this year and have only surpassed 50 four times. Yet, Ludlowe, somehow, is 6-7, and one game out of the final FCIAC playoff berth.
“I thought our defense was for real tonight,” Ludlowe coach Brian Silvestro said. “I wasn’t surprised that they had 12 at halftime … there is something to that.”
The Falcons, who are shooting just 37 percent this year and only 28 percent
from 3-point range, finally saw Mark Malone heat up offensively. The junior guard scored 12 of his 19 in the first half, nailing four 3-pointers.
“I just wanted to come out and play as hard as I can,” Malone said. “It feels really good to come out and beat Warde.”
With standout forwards Patrick Gutierrez and Connor Peterson combining for just 10 points, Malone’s shooting was a huge blessing for Ludlowe. But the Falcons’ role players also offered a huge lift.
Matthew Doyle canned two 3-pointers– getting help from some friendly rims on his first. Chad Peterson and Alex Gorusch played great defense, Gorusch even scored a key basket late in the third.
“We’ve developed a couple of them now,” Silvestro said. “They know their roles … and we don’t drop off at all when those guys come into the game.”
That troika, plus Stephen Scholz and guard Dan Santella, helped Ludlowe outrebound Warde 28-25. Silvestro singled out Santella for his effort.
“Tonight he was rebounding and did some stuff,” Silvestro said of Santella.
For Warde, the mood shifts.
The Mustangs dropped their second straight and ninth in 11 contests. Warde is now 4-10.
“They hit some big shots,” Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. “We didn’t get enough of those going our way.”
The Mustangs have just six games left and must win four of those six to reach the state tournament. With games against Trinity Catholic, Ridgefield and St. Joseph on the docket, those chances are looking bleak.
But Swaller’s doing his best to stay positive.
“I understand the road ahead,” he said. “We have two home games. It’ll be nice getting back into our gym, and hopefully the shooting will turn around on Friday.”
In the opener, Ludlowe’s Blatt sisters dominated.
Junior forward Pauline scored a game-high 21, and her sister Charlotte added 10 in the Falcons’ win.
Though the game was tied at halftime, Ludlowe used a 19-8 third quarter to pull away, which ultimately served as the difference.
“I think it was our determination,” Ludlowe coach Sarah Huntington said. “We adjusted in the second half.”
Credit Huntington too. Just four days removed from a blowout loss at home to Stamford, the Falcons gained their ninth win, staying within a game of the final FCIAC tournament berth.
“We learned something from Stamford,” Huntington said. “We came off that loss, and we said ‘what was the difference between Stamford and us? Their toughness’ and that was one of the things we stressed.”
Warde’s Dave Danko thought summarizing the girls game was easy.
“We got outplayed,” he said. “We were getting outworked on the boards.”
He referred to Pauline Blatt as “a difference-maker” when we spoke Friday, and sure enough he was right.
“I knew that she was the difference,” Danko said. “She’s playing like a center.”
The Mustangs now are three games out of an FCIAC berth and probably
must win out to reach the tournament. But with games against Ridgefield, Darien, and Trinity Catholic– three teams tied for the FCIAC’s 6-8 seeds– Warde still holds its own destiny.
Give both student sections credit for showing up last night.
Ludlowe’s was dressed up as though Halloween was imminent. Warde’s sported black shirts and blowup baby heads on sticks.
What great fun.
Pat Pickens is the sports editor of the Fairfield Citizen, a Hearst Connecticut Newspaper. Follow him on Twitter here.