BOYS BASKETBALL Defensive clash
FAIRFIELD — Playing defense paid off tenfold for the Fairfield Warde boys basketball team.
The Mustangs were locked in a struggle with cross-town rival Fairfield Ludlowe and they were able to hold on down the stretch in a 38-37 victory over the Falcons in the championship game of the Fairfield Prep Holiday Classic on Friday night in front of a packed house at Alumni Hall.
It was Warde’s first Prep Classic title in three years and head coach Ryan Swaller knew why his team was able to come out on top.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys,” he said. “We fought through a tough battle in the second half defensively and they (Ludlowe) shut us down but we were able to match that with our defense. Luckily we came up with the ball on the last play and Brendan (McMahon) made a great drive and finished the basket.”
McMahon scored on a reverse layup under the basket with 39 seconds left in the game. Warde’s defense forced an inbounds play for Ludlowe with 1.2 on the clock but a shot at the buzzer hit the backboard as the Warde student body poured onto the floor.
The Falcons had a 37-36 lead with a minute remaining after a Warde timeout before McMahon’s heroics.
“The effort was awesome and our defense has been pretty solid so far but we just can’t keep relying on winning games in the 30’s and 40’s,” Ludlowe head coach John Dailey said. “We have to find a way to score more points and some of that is on me, for sure.”
Matt Becker led the Mustangs (3-1) with 14 points and 9 rebounds to earn the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He was joined on the all-tournament team by Jeff Seganos Jr. (11 points) and Ludlowe’s Jeff Meyers (6 points, 4 rebounds) and James Bourque (14 points), whose driving layup gave the Falcons their last lead (1:15).
Becker was on fire at one point in the second quarter with 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
“This means a lot to us,” Becker said. “This is the first of our three goals: win the holiday tournament, win FCIACs and win states. It’s a big win for us.”
The strong defense of the Mustangs continued a trend of strong defensive efforts this season.
“It has seemed to be (our strength) so far,” Swaller said.
Warde had a 21-13 lead at one point in the first half but Ludlowe closed the gap to trail 25-22 at intermission. The Mustangs maintained control with a 36-33 edge going into the fourth quarter but the defenses on both sides stepped up from there with only 6 points scored combined the rest of the way.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Matt Becker, Warde: The senior forward finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds to earn Most Outstanding Player laurels and lift the Mustangs to the Fairfield Prep Holiday Classic title.
James Bourque, Ludlowe: The junior guard nearly willed the Falcons to a victory and ended up with 14 points and 4 rebounds.
With Ludlowe leading 37-36, Brendan McMahon scored under the basket to put the Mustangs on top for good with 39 seconds remaining in the contest.
Friday marked the first time ever Warde played Ludlowe for the Fairfield Prep Tournament title. …Fairfield Prep defeated Notre Dame-Fairfield 52-35 in the consolation game. …Prep’s Jacob McCarthy and Notre Dame’s Phillip Conner also were named to the all-tournament team.
“I was very proud of our group as a whole and we accomplished goal number one,” Swaller said. “It’s a great feeling.”
“Matt is the guy we look to lead us,” Swaller said of Becker.
“We have to do a better job offensively of executing and putting guys in the right position to score,” Dailey said. “We didn’t play well but we play them again later in the year so we’ll see what happens.”
“Tomorrow is a new day but we’re just going to be happy tonight,” Becker said.
Warde hosts Norwalk on Thursday while Ludlowe is at Stamford, also on Thursday.
WARDE 38, LUDLOWE 37
James Bourque 6 0-0 14; Patrick Kilbride 5 0-0 13; Ian Bentley 0 0-0 0; Christian Peterson 1 0-0 2; Jeff Meyers 3 0-0 6; Jadyn Tabios 0 0-0 0; Rowan Keesser 1 0-0 2; Chris Carlucci 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 0-0 37.
Jeff Seganos Jr. 4 0-0 11, Joey Gulbin 0 1-2 1; Matt Becker 6 0-0 14; Brendan McMahon 1 0-0 2; Matt Houghton 2 0-0 6; Jack McKenna 2 0-3 4; Eli Feay 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 1-5 38.
LUDLOWE 11 11 11 4—37
WARDE13 12 11 2—38
3-pointers: L—Kilbride 3, Bourque 2. W— Seganos Jr. 3, Becker 2, Houghton 2. Fouled out: None.