Falcons went down fighting in states

The Wilbur Cross boys basketball team defeated Fairfield Ludlowe, 44-35, in the first round of the Class L state tournament at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven on March 5.
“It was a very short speech,” Falcons’ coach Brian Silvestro said of postgame address to his squad, “I said, ‘I couldn’t be prouder of the effort you made. You never quit.’”
Seeded fourth, the Governors (19-4) stormed out to a 32-14 lead on Chan Williams-Bey’s layup with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
Ludlowe, the No. 29 seed, roared back with a 15-4 run that lasted until the 2:30 mark of the fourth quarter, pulling the Falcons to within 36-29 on Stephen Scholz’s run-out layup.
But, Cross, which made just 7-of-19 free-throw attempts overall, connected on 6-of-10 down the stretch to avert the upset.
“We allowed an average of forty-five points a game this year,” Silvestro said. “There’s something to be said for that. I didn’t expect to do that tonight… My kids never cease to surprise me.”
Williams-Bey led the Governors with 12 points, while Joshua Fleming added 11.
Pat Gutierrez had a team-high 12 points for Ludlowe, which wrapped up its season at 9-12. Gutierrez scored 10 points in the second half, while Mark Malone chipped in with nine.
Fleming got the Governors off to a hot start with a 3-pointer from the left corner on the game’s opening possession, before Cross center Jaelin Robinson scored in the post.
Back-to-back 3s from Malone and Scholz gave the Falcons their only lead of the game, 6-5, with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
Cross countered with an 18-4 run from there to close out the half, with Wiliams-Bey, a 6-5 junior guard, scoring six points during the stretch — including a thunderous dunk off of a steal at half court to end the opening frame.
Gutierrez’s jumper accounted for Ludlowe’s lone points of the second quarter, as the Governors carried a comfortable 23-10 lead into the halftime break.
A ferocious two-handed dunk by Williams-Bey, off of a halfcourt alley-oop pass from Fleming, ignited a 9-4 burst that pushed the Cross margin to 32-14 on Williams-Bey’s left-handed lay-in with 4:31 left in the stanza. That ended up being the standout junior’s final basket of the game.
“We did a great job on eleven (Williams-Bey),” Silvestro said.
Just when it looked like Ludlowe would be playing out the string over the final 12-plus minutes, the Falcons came to life.
Gutierrez reeled off of 10 consecutive points, pulling Ludlowe to within 32-24 with 7:13 left to play. Robert Durant’s layup pushed the Govs’ lead back to double digits, before Cross missed six straight free throws over the next four minutes.
“We didn’t finish the way we needed to finish,” Cross coach Kevin Walton said. “We didn’t match their desperation or intensity.”
Justin Fredlaw scored the only basket during the stretch for the Governors, but Ludlowe’s only point during the drought was a free throw from Connor Peterson.
“We had so many games like this this year,” Silvestro said of the low-scoring slugfest, one of Ludlowe’s 12 games this season decided by fewer than 10 points.
After three consecutive missed foul shots from Williams-Bey, Scholz’s layup made it 36-29 Cross with 2:30 remaining.
The Falcons got within seven points once more, on Malone’s jumper with 1:05 left, but Jaylin Fuller, Fleming and Williams-Bey hit their free throws to send Cross into the second round, where it edged SCC league rivals Branford, 51-44, on March 7.
“Survive and move on,” Walton said. “It’s tournament time. We’re not happy with this one… On any given night anyone can lose.”
Wilbur Cross defeated Branford and Wilby High to advance to the semifinals opposite top-seeded Trinity Catholic.

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