Something's got to give in three nights when Fairfield Warde visits Fairfield Ludlowe in the championship game of the annual Todd Burger Holiday Tournament in girls basketball.
The Mustangs and Falcons will enter undefeated, each at 5-0, after lopsided first-round victories Friday afternoon and evening in the Falcons' gym. The signature of each team's win was red-hot defense, as in forcing ice-cold offense for their foes.
Warde beat Brien McMahon of Norwalk 78-28 by creating Turnover City for the Senators in the first game, then watched the second game as Ludlowe calmly survived a dreadful shooting third-quarter performance to defeat Brookfield, of the SWC, by 57-32. They will play at 6 p.m. after Brookfield and McMahon meet in the consolation game at 4:15 p.m. Both Fairfield opponents dropped to 0-4 overall.
Caroline Pangallo and Pauline Blatt, who combined for four of Ludlowe's six 3-pointers, paced the Falcons' attack with 13 and 12 points. Next high was Julia Pangallo's six points. Samantha Muzur's nine points and Mimi Gause's eight led the Bobcats. Warde had 11 players score, topped by starter Tiara Fountain's 15 points, and reserves Mollie Kerrigan's 14 and Iliana Krasniqi's 13. Sabrina Rodriguez, who blocked three shots -- two in one sequence -- led McMahon with eight points.
Ludlowe coach Sarah Huntington was not overly concerned with the Falcons' offensive slowdown in the third quarter. They entered the second half with a 36-19 lead and began the fourth quarter with 43-23 cushion. While their offense struggled in that period -- ball movement was fine but the shots could not fall -- the Falcons' defensive intensity did not let up one iota. Neither team hit a bucket in the final six-and-a-half-plus minutes of the third quarter. For more than four minutes, while both teams were in a drought, Ludlowe was ahead by 41-21.
"We weren't focusing on that," Huntington said of the offensive woes limited mainly to the third quarter only. "When you're in a shooting slump, the worst thing you can do is focus on that. At that time, you need to focus on other things. Sometimes you just cannot control if the ball is going to go in for you.
"We are not a great shooting team. One of the things we emphasize is that on your first shot, you shoot about 25 to 27 percent, so we've got to get offensive rebounds. When you do that, your second shot (shooting percentage) goes up to 55-60 percent. On third-chance (shots) it's probably up to 80 percent," Huntington said. Some of Ludlowe's missed shots in the third quarter came on second-, third- and fourth opportunities.
Maybe there was an invisible lid. If so, it disappeared in the fourth quarter when Ludlowe outscored Brookfield by 15-9.
Offensive rebounding is an important ingredient to the Falcons' game, Huntington said. "So we're going to need that against Warde. If we keep up our defensive intensity and commit to offensive rebounding, we should be in a pretty good spot."
The Falcons have two practices before playing Warde. "We have a lot to work on," Huntington said. "We're definitely going to be focusing on offensive rebounding."
Ludlowe's defense was too much for the Bobcats, Brookfield coach Lisa Schang said. "We knew they were a defensive-minded team. We knew they'd be all over us defensively," Schang said. "We're kind of in a rebuilding year. We have to learn to be able to handle the pressure a little bit better."
The pressure that the Mustangs' defense threw at McMahon in the afternoon game also was too much for an opposing coach.
"It was turnovers," McMahon coach Mark McElveen said as the reason for his team's inability to compete at a level higher than it did against Warde. "I really feel we could've played with Warde. We kind of did in the first quarter and in the first half, but we turned the ball over too many times. Every time we turned it over, they scored off that," McElveen said. Warde led 17-6 after the first quarter and brought a 34-15 lead into halftime.
"I think they're one of the top five teams in the FCIAC," McElveen said.
Warde's defense held the Senators to scoring six points each in the first and third quarters -- not that McMahon's offense was churning in the second and fourth quarters when they amassed nine points in the eight minutes before halftime and seven in the final period.
Mustangs' coach Dave Danko substituted liberally, using three waves with modifications of different players popping in here and there for a slightly different look. The constant, though, was the effectiveness of their defensive pressure.
"Right now, I like where we're at," Danko said as the Mustangs look for their fifth straight Burger tournament title. "What we like to establish is bringing that (tourney championship) back. Everyone basically got equal minutes. We played with confidence. Winning solves a lot of things.
"The girls who work hard in practice deserve to get in. Our captains (Kaitlin McKenna, Fountain) realize that and they never complain. We have the athletes who can go out and do it, with 3-pointers or pounding it in," Danko said. "With our effort for 32 minutes, with our depth and confidence, we can overcome a lot when we have an (offensive) lull here and there."
Danko says he has not coached a squad with such depth, at all positions, since his days coaching Fairfield High School.
email@example.com; 203-255-4561 ext. 113; twitter.com/ReidWalmark
Fairfield Warde 78, Brien McMahon 28
Areti Filippidis 1 0-0 3 Vicky Aquilar 2 1-2 6 Sabrina Rodriguez 3 1-2 8 Kimberly Duhart 1 2-6 4 Kyle Courtney 0 0-2 0 Taylor Duhart 0 0-0 0 Kayla Roberson 2 0-0 5 Janelle Lopez 0 0-0 0 Danielle Civil 1 0-0 2 Fabiola Bachinelo 0 0-0 0 Rebekeh Estrada 0 0-0 0. Totals: 10 4-12 28.
FAIRFIELD WARDE (5-0)
Michelle Treglia 1 0-0 2 Daja Polk 2 1-2 5 Lejla Markovic 2 0-0 6 Jackie Lanese 2 2-2 7 Mollie Kerrigan 7 0-1 14 Kaitlin McKenna 3 0-0 6 Charlotte Choinski 2 0-0 4 Iliana Krasniqi 5 2-2 13 Sarah Cotto 2 0-1 5 Tiara Fountain 7 0-1 15 Mary Kate McTague 0 1-2 1. Totals: 33 6-11 78.
BRIEN MCMAHON 6 9 6 7--28
FAIRFIELD WARDE 17 17 19 25--78
3-pointers: BM--Filippidis, Aquilar, Rodriguez, Roberson; FW--Markovic 2, Lanese, Krasniqi, Cotto, Fountain.
Fairfield Ludlowe 57, Brookfield 32
Tori Weinstock 1 0-0 3 Samantha Mazur 2 5-10 9 Katie Kline 1 0-0 2 Cassandra Keller 0 0-0 0 Stephanie Hunt 0 1-2 1 Carolyn Marron 0 5-8 5 Erin McKee 2 0-0 4 Mimi Gause 2 4-10 8. Totals: 8 15-30 32.
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (5-0)
Pauline Blatt 4 4-6 12 Sara Grabowski 2 0-0 4 Caroline Pangallo 6 0-2 13 Charlotte Blatt 2 0-0 4 Caroline Yates 0 0-0 0 Trish Auray 1 0-0 3 Megan Curran 1 0-0 3 Anna Lee Riccio 0 1-2 1 Julia Pangallo 1 4-4 6 Alex McKinnon 1 1-2 3 Regan Steed 2 0-0 4 Sullie Desmond 0 2-3 2 Peyton Brown 1 0-0 2 Julia vonEhr 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 12-17 57.
BROOKFIELD 10 9 4 9--32
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 21 15 7 14--57
3-pointers: B--Weinstock; FL--Pauline Blatt 3, Caroline Pangallo, Auray, Curran.