O’Leary, Paulmann sisters leading Ludlowe
BRIDGEPORT - The treat before this game was a smoothie. Raspberry Romance. For the record, it’s Bridget O’Leary’s favorite. The smoothie was a gift from her ‘team sister’ Anna Paulmann. Before that, it was Bridget’s turn to get Anna something, so a bagel and a bottle of chocolate milk were delivered. Yum.
“I love chocolate milk,” Anna Paulmann said.
On the Ludlowe girls’ basketball team, each player has a ‘sister’ that they exchange little pre-game gifts with but on the Falcons, the sister thing has gone to the next level. There are not one, but two sets of sisters playing for coach Sara Kinsley, senior twins Erin and Bridget O’Leary and junior Bridget Paulmann and freshman Anna Paulmann, four pieces of a group that are trying to qualify for the CIAC tournament, standing 4-8 on the season after posting a 43-39 win last Friday over a Bassick team that had won nine of its opening 11 games.
“Bassick has had a tremendous season and going into the third quarter, that’s one of the quarters that we’ve had trouble with … we’ve struggled in that quarter,” Kinsley said. “We knew that they were going to come out with energy and their defensive intensity rattled us for a while, but we were able to keep our composure and win in the end.”
Thanks in a large part to the two pairs of sisters. Bridget Paulmann scored 20 points, including hitting two big second half 3-pointers, to hold off the charging Lions. Bridget O’Leary scored nine points and Anna Paulmann added six. And while Erin O’Leary did not score, her defensive intensity allowed the Falcons to hold a 10-point halftime lead and weather Bassick’s comeback attempt.
“I believe defense is my biggest strength because offense hasn’t been my number one strength,” Erin O’Leary said. “I think I have improved a lot, especially this year. I’ve given a bigger role in bringing the ball down a lot, and I think I’ve become more composed and capable of bringing the ball downcourt and not getting frantic with it.”
Bridget O’Leary scored all nine of her points against the Lions in the first half, while in the second half, her leadership kept the Ludlowe from losing its composure and locking down an important victory.
“Both O’Leary’s play with the same amount of energy,” Kinsley said. “They have really grown into leaders over the last two years where they’re giving directions on the court, they’re helping the younger girls learn the plays and they really want what’s best for the entire team.
“Bridget Paulmann’s energy every single day helps to empower everyone around her. She’s always giving everything she has every second, even when she not having her best game or her best practice, she never stops. And as a coach, that’s something that you couldn’t ask for anything more out of a player. I think that Anna has come in with her own intensity and has set the tone for what the incoming freshmen are capable of doing.”
Along those lines, it was pretty much a no-brainer for Kinsley to name the two O’Leary’s and Bridget Paulmann as tri-captains this season.
“The three of them, as captains are the most selfless players that I’ve ever had,” Kinsley said. “They’re always looking to things to do to make the team better. That’s a testament to how we’ve been playing this season.”
The three have had their share of ups and downs over the course of the last two-plus seasons. Last year, Ludlowe won just four times in 20 starts, including suffering a nine-game losing streak. But two years ago, the Falcons went 13-11 and reached the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament.
And while Ludlowe needs to win four of its final eight games to earn a berth in this year’s postseason, winning three of its last six is certainly shows there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’d say we have really good chemistry,” Bridget O’Leary said. “Obviously, (Erin and I), we’re twins and we do everything together, so playing together is just another thing and that helps us. Especially with the team chemistry too. The whole team is really close. It’s a lot easier to play when we all get along off the court.”
Added Erin O’Leary: “We know how each other plays, we know our strengths and weaknesses and what each one feels comfortable doing and seeing how we can push each other. When we’re playing defense together, we know how to anticipate the next pass, so we can help our teammates out.”
“I think that another thing that’s important is that bond the girls have off the court,” Kinsley said. “That’s translates to how the team plays on the court. They spend a lot of time together because they want to, not because they’re teammates, they’re friends and they’re all sisters.”
Bridget and Anna started playing basketball in the family driveway when Bridget was around six and Anna was four. And while Bridget, for a while, had the upper hand in those old driveway battles, these days, Anna isn’t going down without a fight.
“I love it, actually, I never got to play with her in middle school so I really enjoying playing with her now,” Bridget Paulmann said. “But it’s getting harder (to beat her). We really push ourselves when we play against each other and that helps us prepare for games because no one is going to go as hard against you as your own sister.”
Said Anna: “We have a younger sister too and we play a lot of 2-on-2 with our dad and it’s a lot of fun because we really play hard against each other.”
Those same battled took place in the O’Leary driveway but with Erin and Bridget’s older brother, Patrick.
“We’d play against Patrick all the time, so we’ve been playing ever since I can remember, shooting with our brother or going to his games and shooting at timeouts or halftime,” Erin O’Leary said. “Competitively, we started playing AAU in fifth grade and in the PAL travel league in sixth grade, so it started to become a much more competitive thing because we were playing year-round against tougher players, which made us tougher.”
“I love the O’Leary’s. We have this thing called ‘sisters’ you have a partner and you bring them food or something on game day,” Anna Paulmann said. “Bridget O’Leary is actually my ‘sister’ on the team. She’s great. She’s always able to calm me down whenever I’m worried. They all so supportive.”