Ludlowe cagers start season strong

Fairfield Ludlowe opened its boys basketball season with a convincing 69-44 victory over St. Joseph in Trumbull on Dec. 17.
Ludlowe had lost eight straight against St. Joseph dating back to 2005-06.
“Any time you come in here and win, it feels great,” Ludlowe head coach John Dailey said. “I’ve been here eight years and I don’t think we’ve ever won here before this. This is a real tough place to play. This is a good basketball team. They’re a little down, but our kids played fantastic.”
Ludlowe, coming off a 5-15 season a year ago but well stocked with returning talent, led 20-8 at the end of the first quarter, 42-16 at halftime and had a 63-25 advantage before pulling its starters early in the fourth quarter.
Led by the play of 6-foot-6 sophomore center Hayes Kelchner (15 points, seven rebounds) and senior guard Matt Doyle (19 points, seven assists), the Falcons lived up to the preseason hype that had them challenging for an FCIAC playoff spot.
Ludlowe shot the ball well from the outside, getting two 3-pointers from junior Chris Howell (12 points) and another from senior Darren Lee.
The Falcons didn’t just beat St. Joseph. They did it easily, jumping out to a 10-0 lead before rolling to a 69-44 victory.
Doyle was particularly impressive, scoring most of his points on smooth pull-up jumpers and a patented floating touch shot in the lane. Doyle also connected on one of Ludlowe’s five 3-pointers while adding two steals.
Doyle’s layup after a steal at halfcourt gave the Falcons a 10-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first quarter and Ludlowe never lost control after that.
“It was an ideal start,” said Doyle, who missed part of the first half with a sprained ankle. “We were ready to play. We’ve been preparing for this for months. We were pretty confident, and we just came out ready to play.”
Doyle scored almost every time he touched the ball. That made Kelchner so tough to defend in the paint.
“He’s terrific,” Dailey said of Kelcher. “He’s terrific with his back to the basket. He shoots the ball well with both hands. He was a terrific defensive rebounder tonight, but he gave us so many second and third looks on the offensive glass. He really works hard and he’s a terrific finisher at the rim.”
Ludlowe also moved the ball around the court like little kids playing hot potato in the backyard, collecting 16 assists as a team.
They also displayed great depth, getting solid play out of senior Chad Peterson (six points, three rebounds), junior Tom Duffy (five points, three rebounds, two assists) and Owen Mockler (six rebounds).
Ludlowe’s first two minutes proved how multi-dimensional it is.
Duffy scored the team’s first two points on two foul shots then scored on the fast break off a pass from Doyle. Lee found Peterson on a back-door cut to make it 6-0, Kelchner connected on a post-up move against St. Joseph senior Tyshon Williams (five rebounds) and Doyle manufactured his own layup with defense.
A 14-0 run to start the second quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Lee and Doyle, made it 34-8.
“I think the potential is there,” Dailey said. We just have to keep bringing it every night.”
St. Joseph, coming off a 10-12 record last season, might have been set up for a loss like this. The Cadets are still trying to come to grips with the loss of leading scorer Jon Dzurenda to graduation and Arkel Ager-Lamar, who transferred to St. Thomas More prep school.
But Cadets’ coach Chris Watts wasn’t making any excuses.
“Ludlowe played well. Everything they shot went in, and they handled out pressure well,” Watts said. “But I don’t think anyone should ever be 30 points better than us. We just didn’t take care of business. Maybe I just didn’t have my guys ready.”
Ludlowe out-rebounded St. Joseph 38-24 and used the poise and quickness of Doyle, Peterson and Howell to break through its press defense.
Watts doesn’t believe this is indicative of how his team will play this season.
“The good news is the games come so quickly, so we don’t have time to sit around thinking about this,” he said. “I think as guys start to make adjustments and as other guys start getting healthy, we should be a team to be reckoned with.”
Ludlowe is already there.
“I think we definitely have the ability to make the state tournament,” Doyle said. “And if we keep playing like this, maybe more. Who knows?”
Ludlowe lost to Staples of Westport, 52-49, on Dec. 19. The Falcons host Greenwich High tonight at 7. They join Fairfield Warde and Notre Dame-Fairfield at the Fairfield Prep Christmas Tournament on Dec 26-27.

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