In a game in which its leader was held in check somewhat, the Fairfield Ludlowe girls basketball team found answers up and down its lineup to slow down a Bridgeport Central team that had entered Tuesday afternoon's FCIAC game having won five of its last six games.
Make that now five of seven. Ludlowe junior point guard Caroline Pangallo was limited to nine points, but 10 of her teammates scored, led by Regan Steed's 12 points and 10 from Alex McKinnon, as the Falcons beat the Hilltoppers 72-35. Ludlowe improved to 9-1 overall with its third straight win and Bridgeport Central, whose two-game winning streak was snapped, dropped to 5-4.
Hilltoppers coach Craig Davis had scouted Ludlowe. He was aware of how Caroline Pangallo can take over a game, so he sent his team into a box-and-one defense, guarding Pangallo one-on-one. She still supplied assists, steals and a few rebounds, but her shooting was kept in check.
But Ludlowe has two other point guards -- Steed, a sophomore, and Julia vonEhr, a senior -- and although neither dominated when at the controls of the Falcons' offense, they certainly were effective.
"They did a good job stopping Caroline Pangallo," Ludlowe coach Sarah Huntington said. "But the rest of the girls stepped up. We had a nice balance with our scoring. We showed depth as far as the offensive threats that we have. It was nice to have Julia vonEhr back in the mix."
Although Davis admitted the Hilltoppers' defense prevented Caroline Pangallo from dominating action, he too noted how the rest of Ludlowe's cast picked up the slack. "That's a real good team," Davis said of the Falcons. "That is a caliber team. I think they're in the upper echelons of the FCIAC."
Central's premier player, senior point guard Demere Hunt-Stephens, scored a game-high 14 points and contributed in all phases of play. An honorable mention all-conference player a year ago, Hunt-Stephens is among the top scorers in the FCIAC this winter, Davis said.
"She's absolutely tremendous," Huntington said of Hunt-Stephens, with Ludlowe's coach particularly impressed by her quickness and composure. "She's a great face for the Central program. She's a great all-around player."
Central was hampered by injury and illness to two of its starters -- Unique Langston (health) and Alexia Myers (quad) -- Davis said. "In no way, shape or form am I using that as an excuse," Davis said. "We didn't wake up until late in the third quarter, early in the fourth quarter. We didn't do a good job rebounding. We gave Ludlowe more possessions and more opportunities to score."
Ludlowe carried a 27-5 lead into the second quarter and led by 42-14 after the first half. The Falcons outscored the Hilltoppers 30-21 in the second half. Huntington said Central put on a push at the start of each half.
Central led 5-2 after Langston's 3-pointer 81 seconds into the game. The Hilltoppers didn't score again until Diamond Allen's basket from the paint nearly two minutes into the second quarter. That bucket made the score 29-7. Central's drought lasted more than 8-and-a-half minutes.
"I'm super happy with how we played," Huntington said. "I was pleased with our ball movement and how we worked our sets. We talked after the game on ways to keep improving our defense. It will be an important component for us for the rest of our games."
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Fairfield Ludlowe 72, Bridgeport Central 35
BRIDGEPORT CENTRAL (5-4)
Natasha Brown 2 2-4 7 Demere Hunt-Stephens 6 2-2 14 Unique Langston 1 0-0 3 Savannah Cummings 1 0-3 2 Alexia Myers 0 1-5 1 Clivea Baker 0 0-0 0 Tajzhane Freeman 2 0-0 4 Vesachie Brown 0 0-0 0 Diamond Allen 2 0-2 4 Thea Stephens 0 0-0 0 Cynthia Brice 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 5-16 35.
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (9-1)
Pauline Blatt 4 0-0 8 Sara Grabowski 2 0-0 4 Julia vonEhr 2 0-0 5 Caroline Pangallo 3 2-2 9 Charlotte Blatt 2 0-0 5 Caroline Yates 1 0-0 2 Trish Auray 4 1-1 9 Meghan Curran 0 0-0 0 Anna Lee Riccio 0 1-2 1 Julia Pangallo 2 1-2 5 Alex McKinnon 4 2-2 10 Regan Steed 4 4-5 12 Sullie Desmond 0 0-0 0 Peyton Brown 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 10-13 72.
CENTRAL 5 9 16 5--35
LUDLOWE 27 15 20 10--72
3-pointers: BC--Brown, Langston; FL--vonEhr, Caroline Pangallo, Charlotte Blatt, Auray.