McTague lifts Warde boys basketball to town crown
After losing six games by eight points or less this season, the Fairfield Warde boys basketball team picked its biggest game of the season to seal a victory.
It even helped to injure the FCIAC playoff hopes of its crosstown rival, Fairfield Ludlowe.
"I was very happy that we were able to close out a game," Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. "We've had trouble doing that."
Warde beat Ludlowe for the fourth straight time and the second time this year. The Mustangs need to win two of their final three games in order to qualify for the Class L playoffs.
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"We have three games to get two [wins]," Swaller said. "That's our goal."
The Falcons were led by senior guard Kevin Bentivegna, who scored a game-high 23 points. Junior David Kinsley also chipped in eight points and seven rebounds as Ludlowe fell for the first time in three games.
"We didn't get it done," Ludlowe coach Brian Silvestro said. "It wasn't one of our better games."
The Mustangs won for only the second time in their last 11 games. They drew high praise from Silvestro, especially their big men, who used a significant size advantage to outrebound the Falcons 29-18 for the game.
"They got second shots," Silvestro said. "They're bigger and we didn't effectively keep them off the glass."
"We knew we outsized them," Warde senior captain Kadeem Mundle said.
Warde also was hellbent on closing off Bentivegna defensively. Ludlowe's leading scorer only was able to net a single 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, a period in which Warde outscored Ludlowe 21-15. The Mustangs outscored the Falcons 40-29 in the second half.
"Kevin is a great player," Swaller said. "Defensively we were just focused on him. We needed to keep him under control the best we could."
McTague spearheaded this second half dominance. The junior guard scored 12 of his 18 in the final 16 minutes, including three 3-pointers.
"I was feeling it," McTague said. "But I give credit to my teammates ... they found me when I was open and I was able to knock some of those shots down."
The junior has overcome injury, and Swaller was happy to see him get an opportunity to shine in his team's biggest game of the season.
"He stepped up in a big way," Swaller said.
Warde used an 11-0 run between the third and fourth quarter to pull away. The Mustangs held Ludlowe without a basket for exactly six minutes of game action, turning a three-point game into a 51-37 advantage.
Then down the stretch, the Mustangs hit 15 of their final 16 foul shots over the last 2:16. Six of the 15 came from Mundle, who scored 14 and grabbed six rebounds.
"I felt that if I made the free throws, the game would be over," Mundle said. "So I had to just keep making them."
The loss drastically hurts Ludlowe's FCIAC playoff chances as the Falcons sit a half-game out of the final spot with just three to play. Ludlowe will also have to close its season with three of the top-four teams in the FCIAC standings, starting tonight when the Falcons will go to Trumbull to play No. 1 ranked St. Joseph.
"This is a big setback for that," Silvestro said of the Falcons' FCIAC playoff chances.
Warde will play again on Wednesday when it will host Harding at 7 p.m.