Fairfield Ludlowe played outstanding girls basketball in the first half against Staples on Wednesday night. The second half, not so much. Ultimately, the Falcons' performance in the opening 16 minutes propelled them to a 53-32 win at home, their sixth victory in a row.
Ludlowe played like a well-oiled machine in the first half and led 38-9 at the break. Just when it looked to be on the verge of getting blown out, Staples found its footing on both ends. Although the Wreckers made a game of it, the Falcons made enough plays to maintain a comfortable lead.
Pauline Blatt led the Falcons with 15 points. Caroline Pangallo (12) and Alex McKinnon (10) also finished in double figures. Abby Lustig scored 15 points to lead the Wreckers. Ludlowe improved to 12-1 overall and 10-1 in the FCIAC. Staples' overall record dropped to 4-8.
Ludlowe grabbed control of the game by ending the first quarter on an 11-2 run to go up 18-7. The Falcons continued to show why they are atop the FCIAC in the second quarter by outscoring Staples 20-2. Their defense pressured Staples ball handlers and took away any offensive movement by the Wreckers. By forcing poor shots and turnovers and controlling the defensive boards, Ludlowe obtained easy baskets off fast breaks.
"Our press break was really working in the first half and creating a lot of havoc, and it helped to set up our offense," Falcons acting head coach Jason Purzyki said. "When our defense is able to force steals and start fastbreaks, it pumps the whole team up."
"In the first half, our missed shots from out deep and inability to get second-chance points really set the stage for a good transition game by Ludlowe," Staples coach Ed Huydic said. "They showed great team energy and offensive execution."
In the second half, the Wreckers were much more competitive. Their defense did a strong job of denying entry passes and closing out on Ludlowe's shooters, thus keeping the Falcons from controlling the pace of the game and limiting their second-chance opportunities. Their offense was much more active and scored in the paint by going hard at the basket. Staples cut the deficit to 44-17 at the end of the third quarter, and eventually got as close as 46-29.
"We did so many things well in the second half that we didn't do in the first half," Huydic said. "We played solid defense, and our offense was aggressive at the basket and able to finish some tough shots."
"In the second half, there were times when we had lapses and failed to communicate on both ends," Purzyki said. "I thought we did a good job of executing at the end to close things out.
"I thought we played very well overall," Purzyki said. "We were able to come out hard in the first half. This game is going to prepare us for some tough opponents."
Danny Atkinson is a freelance reporter