Fairfield Warde's defense was ferocious at the start, but the Mustangs couldn't maintain that intensity and allowed Fairfield Ludlowe to find its offense in the second half Monday night at the annual Todd Burger Holiday Tournament in girls basketball at Ludlowe.
The undefeated Falcons rallied for a 51-50 victory in the tourney championship game that sent the Mustangs (5-1) to their first defeat of the season. Ludlowe improved to 6-0. Brookfield (1-4) won the consolation game over Brien McMahon of Norwalk (0-5), played Monday afternoon, by 50-35.
Tournament MVP Caroline Pangallo scored 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half to lead Ludlowe's comeback. She was the lone Falcons' player to reach double figures in scoring. Warde captain Tiara Fountain scored a team-high 16 points, 10 in the second half.
"At halftime, we talked about refocusing on offense," Pangallo said. "Our mentality changed in the second half. In the first half, they (Mustangs) were definitely the better team." Warde led 29-16 entering the third quarter after building a 13-5 lead in the first quarter in which the Mustangs held Ludlowe to no baskets.
"We were more confident with the ball in the second half, and their defense was less intense. We took advantage of that," Pangallo said. "Their ball pressure in the first half was incredible. We were frantic. I was frantic."
Ludlowe coach Sarah Huntington said the major adjustment her team made at halftime was a suggestion from her assistant coaches Kate Dawson and Jason Purzycki. They switched Ludlowe's defense to a diamond back into a zone, which is not the Falcons' customary look. "That was a great thing for us," Huntington said.
That change got the team going, and the shots that weren't falling in the first half dropped in and the gaps in Warde's defense that barely existed at all in the first two quarters began to pop open and Ludlowe's dribblers and shooters found their way into them.
Ludlowe opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run, Regan Steed got past the Warde defense for a layup in the first nine seconds, Pangallo hit a 3-pointer, then penetrated for a layup and Warde's 13-point halftime lead had been whittled to a eight-point advantage. One of Fountains's three 3-pointers made it 34-23, but that didn't faze Ludlowe.
"I wanted to see our mental toughness," Huntington said. "It mattered to see the resiliency of my team. That taught me a lot. It was a true testament to our girls. We really talked about mental toughness, really rising above what's not going your way. We got to rise above our (offensive) choppiness. We refocused and got back on track."
Pangallo had two nice assists in Ludlowe's third quarter surge -- the Falcons outscored Warde by 19-7 in the period -- that moved her team to within striking range. Her 3-pointer from the left side, after a Ludlowe steal, made it 34-33 Warde with 1:59 remaining in the quarter. A basket by Fountain gave Warde a three-point lead, but the Falcons' Trish Auray hit a shot with eight seconds to play, making it 36-35 Mustangs entering the fourth quarter.
Steed's 16-footer gave Ludlowe a 37-36 lead 36 seconds into the fourth quarter and Auray's bucket from the paint made it 39-36 Falcons 37 seconds later. Another 3-pointer by Fountain squared it at 39-39 14 seconds after that. Sarah Cotto's three-for-three conversion from the foul line tied it at 44-44 with 3:08 to play. Pangallo's feed for an Alex McKinnon layup gave the Falcons a 47-44 lead with 2:10 left.
The final minute began with Ludlowe on top 49-46 after a Pauline Blatt basket from deep in the lane. Pangallo converted a one-and-one from the free-throw line for a 51-48 cushion with 7.6 seconds remaining. Fountain's layup just before the buzzer brought the final to 51-50.
"They got six points (three baskets) off their high -screen and roll play," Warde coach Dave Danko said. "We were supposed to sag on that play but didn't. The momentum switched in the third quarter.
"We had some (good) looks that didn't go in, but so did they. Their pick-and-rolls, they capitalized on. We had drills on keeping them out of the paint, but their athletes got into the paint. They owned the boards on us.
"They're hurt tonight but nothing's lost," Danko said of his players' feelings. "Maybe a little of their pride because it was a Warde-Ludlowe game. But we're still undefeated in the conference. We'll see how they (Mustangs) respond. For them (Falcons), it was a momentum builder. We had them. They made some key substitutions.
"I believe that we're both (FCIAC) playoff teams. We realize we have to be a little more crisp with our passes, that we have to be better with our entry passes," Danko said.
In the consolation game, Brookfield took a 16-7 lead after the first quarter, extended it to 30-18 by halftime, then began the fourth quarter with a 36-29 advantage. Mazur scored 13 points, Katie Kline added 11 and Carolyn Marron had 10 points. Vicky Aquilar paced the Senators with 14 points.
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Todd Burger Holiday Tournament
Championship game: Fairfield Ludlowe 51, Fairfield Warde 50
FAIRFIELD WARDE (5-1)
Michelle Treglia 0 0-0 0 Daja Polk 0 1-2 1 Kenzie Burns 3 0-0 6 Lejla Markovic 2 4-4 8 Jackie Lanese 0 0-0 0 Mollie Kerrigan 2 1-2 5 Kaitlin McKenna 4 0-4 8 Iliana Krasniqi 0 0-0 0 Sarah Cotto 1 4-4 6 Tiara Fountain 6 1-2 16. Totals: 18 11-18 50.
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (6-0)
Pauline Blatt 1 1-2 3 Sara Grabowski 0 0-0 0 Caroline Pangallo 7 4-5 20 Charlotte Blatt 0 3-4 3 Caroline Yates 0 2-2 2 Trish Auray 2 0-0 4 Julia Pangallo 2 0-0 4 Alex McKinnon 4 1-2 9 Regan Steed 2 2-4 6. Totals: 18 13-19 51.
WARDE 13 16 7 14--50
LUDLOWE 5 11 19 16--51
3-pointers: FW--Fountain 3; FL--Caroline Pangallo 2
Consolation game: Brookfield 50, McMahon 35
Tori Weinstock 2 1-5 7 Jillian Fisher 0 0-0 0 Samantha Mazur 4 5-7 13 Katie Kline 4 1-2 11 Cassandra Keller 0 0-0 0 Carolyn Marron 1 8-15 10 Eric McKee 3 0-3 6 Stephanie Hunt 1 0-0 2 Mimi Gause 0 1-2 1. Totals: 15 16-34 50.
Areti Filippidis 1 0-2 2 Vicky Aquilar 4 2-4 14 Sabrina Rodriguez 2 0-0 4 Kim Duhart 3 0-2 6 Taylor Duhart 2 2-3 6 Kayla Roberson 0 0-0 0 Danielle Civil 0 1-2 1 Gianna Bazzano 0 0-0 0 Janelle Lopez 1 0-0 2 Naomi Salamea 0 0-0 0 Kayla Marko 0 0-0 0 Fabiola Bachinelo 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 5-13 35.
BROOKFIELD 16 14 6 14--50
MCMAHON 7 11 11 6--35
3-pointers: B--Weinstock 2, Kline 2; M--Aquilar 4. Fouled out: M--Taylor Duhart.