Fairfield Ludlowe High School girls' basketball Coach Sarah Huntington challenged her players to come out with a strong effort in Friday's home clash with Staples of Westport after a sluggish start did them in against St. Joseph of Trumbull three days earlier.

The Falcon players obliged, jumping out to an early lead, then fending off a furious Wreckers' comeback attempt for a 55-40 win. Ludlowe improved to 5-4 overall, and Staples dropped to 5-3.

Brianna Curran scored 14 points, two of which came on 3-pointers, Pauline Blatt dropped in 13, and Sarah Nesi and Katherine Mahder both added 10 in the Falcons' win. Caroline Pangallo, who hit a shot from beyond the arc, added five points off the bench in the victory.

Staples was led by Nikki Bukovsky's 12 points and nine apiece from Jess Coelho and Erica Stein. Maggie Fair added six in the defeat.

Ludlowe led 13-7 after one quarter of play and built up a 21 point lead when Nesi set up Curran on a bounce pass in the paint late in the third quarter. That's when Staples began to chip away. The Wreckers closed out the quarter on an 8-0 run to get to within 41-28 with eight minutes to play. Costello came up with a block and Fair came up with a key steal to help spark the 8-0 run.

A full-court press by the Wreckers created turnovers and the visitors continued to claw back into the game in the fourth. Coelho's bucket narrowed the gap to single digits, 43-34 with five minutes to play. Nesi gave Ludlowe a 10-point lead, and seconds later, Coelho answered with a baby hook shot. With 2:55 showing on the clock, Stein sank a 3-pointer to pull the Wreckers to within six at 46-40, but the Wreckers could get no closer.

"I think the pressure defense had Ludlowe really bottled up but you can't fall behind a team by (21) points like we did," Staples Coach Ed Huydic said.

Despite seeing the Wreckers get back into the game with a 20-5 run, Huntington wasn't about to panic. In fact, she kind of expected it. "I wasn't getting nervous because, you know what - that's what I expect from Huydic and his crew," she said. "They're tough. You give them an inch, they'll take a mile."

The Falcons didn't give the Wreckers anything, but Staples almost took that proverbial mile anyway, nearly overcoming a huge deficit. As the Wreckers crept closer, Huntington said she encouraged her players to battle back. "I told my players they had to fight harder," she said.

It was a physical game throughout, with players from both sides hitting the floor time and time again. The pace of the game was dictated by the Falcons as the Wreckers got off to a sluggish start much like Ludlowe did in its previous game in being outscored 19-4 by St. Joes after one quarter.

"Ludlowe played a physical, chaotic game that took us off our possession game," Huydic said.

The Falcons repeatedly got second- and third-chance points thanks to a strong rebounding effort. The team compiled 32 pull-downs, led by Mahder's ten. "The real key was rebounds," Huntington said.

Huntington had told her players that "a team is only as good as how it comes back from a loss. She was thrilled with her team's explosive start. "They came out and they played hard," Huntington pointed out.

Huydic, meanwhile, was less than thrilled with how his team began the game. "I'm disappointed that we weren't ready to play when we got off the bus," he said.

Now, Huydic will look for his team to overcome a rough start much like Ludlowe did. The Wreckers will strive to build off their late second-half comeback surge. when they take on Bridgeport Central on Jan. 10.