WESTPORT--After erasing an early deficit with an excellent second-quarter shooting performance, Fairfield Ludlowe girls basketball guard Caroline Pangallo was sent to the bench after committing her third foul early in the second half.
Ever eager to pick up the slack, her teammates put the game away with another outstanding defensive effort and excellent finishing inside.
Pangallo scored 16 points as Ludlowe won for the fifth time in six games, 44-24 over Staples on Thursday evening.
"It's just a testament to our team," Ludlowe coach Sarah Huntington said. "I don't want us to be a one-person team, I want everyone to contribute and it was a positive thing for our squad to see that even if (Pangallo) is out of the game we still managed to sustain the same tempo and intensity."
The Falcons (7-4), just one win from their 2011-12 win total, overcame an early 10-4 deficit and put the game away in the second half. After holding Staples to just one second-quarter point and building a 16-11 lead at halftime, Ludlowe stormed out of the second half gate, outscoring the Wreckers 18-7 in the third period.
The defeat extended the Wreckers' (3-7) losing streak to six. Guard Nikki Bukovsky led Staples with 11 points, but the Wreckers were cold from the field for most of the night, including a stretch of 10 minutes without a field goal. They only scored 14 total points after the first quarter.
"It's just another case of not finishing," Staples coach Ed Huydic said. "I thought our defensive intensity, with the exception of the third quarter when (Ludlowe) rotated the ball and took advantage of us on the inside, was good. The problem that we have is that we just don't finish."
In a game in which both defenses set the tone, the difference proved to be finishing inside. Ludlowe's Blatt sisters (Pauline and Charlotte) combined for 10 third-quarter points -- exclusively on lay-ups and three-point plays -- to ice the game.
"We had some good looks early and we drained a few, then (Ludlowe) stretched it out a little bit," Huydic said. "We were just unable to take advantage of the interior maybe as much as we could have. They really stepped up their man-defense and it caused us to get out of our disciplined approach."
The Falcons used a swarming defense to hold their third straight opponent under 30 points. Turnovers, blocked shots and hustling rebounds were all in abundance as the Wreckers were never able to find their offensive rhythm.
"That's something we've taken tremendous pride in in practice; working on our man full court and our intensity," Huntington said. "I told them Staples was a physical, tough team and they certainly displayed that in the first half. We just had to work through it and it was going to come from our defense."
Staples started the game brightly, with Bukovsky and Erica Stein each hitting first-quarter 3-pointers while catching the visitors off guard with an aggressive defense.
"(Staples) started off with a high-pressure zone, which frazzled us a little bit," Pangallo said. "After a while we focused on our passing and finding the open girl and we started to beat their zone much better."
The Falcons are now 6-3 in the FCIAC after going 8-11 in the league a year ago.
"I am more excited about what you guys don't see in practice," Huntington said. "Sure I am excited about these wins, but these girls come to work every day, and they see the benefits of their hard work."
Fairfield Ludlowe 44, Staples 24
Fairfield Ludlowe (7-4)
Sydney Foulk 2 0-0 4 Caroline Pangallo 5 2-4 16 Julia Von Ehr 1 2-2 5 Julia Pangallo 2 0-0 4 Pauline Blatt 2 3-4 7 Charlotte Blatt 1 1-1 3 Alex Poitras 1 0-0 2 Trish Auray 1 0-0 3 Totals 12 8-11 44.
Madeline Schemel 2 0-0 4 Maggie Fair 1 0-0 3 Nicole Bukovsky 4 2-6 11 Erica Stein 2 0-0 6 Kelsey Bobrow 0 0-2 0 Allison April 0 0-0 0 Totals: 9 2-8 24.
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 4 12 18 10--44
STAPLES 10 1 7 6--24
3-pointers: FL--Pangallo 4, Von Ehr, Auray; S--Stein 2, Bukovsky, Fair.