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Gutierrez wins knockout round

Stephen Scholz (22) did most of the grunt work inside, while Patrick Gutierrez (15) handled scoring duties when Ludlowe knocked off Staples of Westport in overtime. (Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

Patrick Gutierrez knocked down a buzzer-beating basket from the baseline and coach Brian Silvestro’s Fairfield Ludlowe boys basketball team defeated Staples of Westport, 32-30, in Fairfield on Thursday night.
Gutierrez’s bucket came after Ludlowe inbounded the ball with nine seconds left in regulation and Danny Santella reversed his dribble to create space and found him open on the left wing.
Gutierrez, who scored 18 points, took the ball to the baseline, where he stepped back and swished the net from 12 feet out over the outstretched hand of Staples’ Pete Rankowitz.
“Pete is a good friend of mine and he had his hand in my face, but I just got clear enough to get the shot off,” said Gutierrez, who is counted on to do much of the Ludlowe scoring with Connor Peterson sidelined with a calf sprain.
“It was a team effort. Darren Lee is a sophomore and came in for Connor and responded well.”
To win for the fifth time in nine starts, Ludlowe had to find a way to outpoint Staples’ James Frusciante, who tallied 26 of his team’s 30 points, including a reverse layup with 3:26 remaining.
That gave Staples a 27-26 lead, its first since Frusciante buried a 3-pointer to open the game.
“We didn’t have one player to guard him, and we went with the 2-3 zone because we didn’t match up with them one-on-one,” Silvestro said.
“It wasn’t Nolan Richardson’s 40 minutes of hell (at Arkansas), but we didn’t sit back in the zone. We challenged the shooters and then recovered and reset.
“We wanted to get the ball to Patrick, but doing it was a problem. Danny made the pass and Patrick used his length to get the shot off.”
While Gutierrez and Frusciante lit up the scoreboard, Ludlowe turned to Stephen Scholz to do a little bit of everything else.
“Stephen can’t be off the floor, he is very, very valuable,” Silvestro said of his 6-2 senior, who serves as team captain with classmates Santella, Gutierrez and Peterson.
“He does all the hard work against bigger guys. He gets the big rebound and plays well on defense.”
Scholz’s biggest board came with 1:18 remaining and Ludlowe behind 28-26 on the scoreboard.
Staples’ David Katz took the ball to the hole hard and was fouled. Both shots rimmed out, and Scholz outletted the ball to Santella, who fed Gutierrez, who banked in a drive to tie things with 56 seconds remaining.
The Wreckers misfired on a 3-pointer, and Santella grabbed the rebound. Chad Peterson scored down the other end for a 30-28 Ludlowe lead with 27 seconds left.
Frusciante muscled in a basket with nine ticks on the clock, before Gutierrez nailed his game winner.
Silvestro went to his bench often and wasn’t disappointed, with Matt Doyle, Alex Gorsuch and Brent Peiffer getting the job done.
Mark Malone and Santella zone slid out from Ludlowe’s 2-3 zone to challenge perimeter shooters, and then flexed back to take away passing lanes.
Malone forced a pair of Staples’ turnovers in the first eight minutes, which ended in a 7-7 tie.
Chad Peterson worked hard to gather in two offensive rebounds to open the second stanza, before the 6-2 sophomore fed Malone, who buried a jumper from the elbow.
Peiffer’s kickout pass to Guttierez made it 11-7.
Ludlowe took a 15-10 lead into the half after Gutierrez came off setting a screen and took Scholz’ inbounds pass for a hoop, and then beat the buzzer with a cross-over floater from the lane.
Neither team went to the line in the first two periods, and Ludlowe was 7-of-18 from the field and Staples’ 4-for-16. Three of the Wreckers’ hoops came from 3-point range, while Ludlowe hit 1-of-3 treys.
The Falcons scored on 4-of-5 possessions midway through the third quarter.
Scholz and Malone had assists on two Gutierrez’ 3-pointers and Scholz turned a rebound into a made free throw for a 22-16 lead.
Frusciante scored the next two baskets before Scholz scored inside off a Santella assist.
Ludlowe led 24-21 with one period to go.

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