Playing one of the FCIAC's top teams, without its leading scorer, the Fairfield Ludlowe boys basketball team could have let Bridgeport Central come in and roll.
That's not what Ludlowe did.
Yet, Central still found a way to come out on top. The Hilltoppers outscored Fairfield Ludlowe 11-2 over the game's last 2:16 as Central beat the Falcons 55-49 on Friday night at Ludlowe.
"We certainly sold our kids that we were not the underdog," Ludlowe coach Brian Silvestro said. "The last two minutes kind of defined the game."
Marcus Blackwell led Central with 19 points, six reboundsand three blocks. Junior guard Tyler Ancrum scored all eight of his points in the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The Hilltoppers improved to 4-1.
Patrick Gutierrez led Ludlowe with 14 points. Mark Malone scored 13. The Falcons fell to 3-4, playing their first game without injured forward Connor Peterson.
"I knew it'd be a battle," Silvestro said. "We kept them in the 40s for 99 percent of the game. They're not going to be kept in the 40s very often this year ... but we just came up short."
Malone's 3-pointer late in the half gave the Falcons the lead for more than 16 minutes, as Ludlowe used an 11-4 spurt out of the break-- getting layups by breaking Central's press-defense-- to build a 37-28 advantage.
Central outscored the Falcons 16-6, taking a 44-43 lead on Orhan Cecunjanin's two made free-throws. After Ludlowe re-took the lead, Ancrum hit back-to-back 3-pointers, putting Central back up 50-47.
"They switched their zone-press to more of a 1-2-2," Silvestro said.
Brent Peiffer's layup made that lead one, and Ludlowe had the chance to tie it with the ball with less than a minute to play. But Chad Peterson's jumper got stuck between the rim and backboard, giving Central possession thanks to the alternate possession.
"It's a wide-open look," Silvestro said. "The worst of all worlds happens, it was like a turnover."
The Falcons played one of their best opening quarters, scoring the game's first seven points. Ludlowe successful navigated through Central's aggressive man-to-man defense, and Malone scored six, as the Falcons built a 13-6 lead after one.
"It was a great confidence boost," Silvestro said.
Central cut that lead to 13-11 early in the second, but Ludlowe answered with an 8-2 run that lifted Ludlowe back up by eight, 21-13.
The Hilltoppers, playing an aggressive zone-press defense, used a 10-0 run to take a 23-21 lead late in the first half.
CENTRAL 6 18 14 17-- 55
LUDLOWE 13 13 13 10-- 49
Tyler Ancrum 2 2-3 8 Orhan Cecunjanin 2 3-5 9 Marcus Blackwell 6 4-7 19 Dondre Daniels 0 0-0 0 Antoin Pettway 2 0-0 4 Ricky Grant 1 0-1 2 ShaQuan Bretoux 5 1-2 11 Jahdeh Sommerville 1 0-0 2 Totals 19 11-18 55.
3-pointers: Central 6 (Blackwell 3, Ancrum 2, Cecunjanin); Ludlowe 4 (Gutierrez 2, Malone, Santella).