Ludlowe basketball team secures date with Prep

Ludlowe's Matt Doyle (5) and Falcon coach John Dailey celebrate after the Falcons' 50-45 win over Hamden. (Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

Ludlowe’s Matt Doyle (5) and Falcon coach John Dailey celebrate after the Falcons’ 50-45 win over Hamden.
(Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

“It’s huge, in years past it was about defeats, now we’re making noise,” was how Fairfield Ludlowe’s Matt Doyle summed up his feeling after the No. 8 Falcons turned back No. 9 Hamden High, 50-45 in a Class LL second-round state tournament game played before an energized crowd at Ludlowe High on Wednesday night.

Ludlowe will next play at No. 1 Fairfield Prep, an 80-49 winner over Newtown High, in the quarterfinal round on Friday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall.

Doyle scored 18 points, including a pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining, but when the 6-foot-4 senor guard was called for his second foul with 6:28 remaining in the first half, Ludlowe coach John Dailey had to make a decision.

“It was quite easy in fact,” Dailey said of pulling Doyle for three-plus minutes and then reinserting him in the lineup at the 3:02 mark of the second quarter. “I don’t think that Matt has had more than three fouls in any game this year.

“It’s not his style, in our defense. Matt’s job is to extend on the first pass and then go. Putting him back in was the right move, no doubt.”

Doyle never picked up a third foul in the game, but he did score Ludlowe’s last six points of the second period to give the Falcons a 25-17 cushion at the half.

Ludlowe had the advantage despite 12 turnovers, three steals that led directly to breakaway layups.

The Green Dragons were led by Dylan Noble, as the 6-foot-1 senior guard and captain scored 10 points in the first quarter, three hoops coming off first-pass steals.

“Hamden’s pressure was difficult,” Doyle said. “It was on the ball and off the ball. We had to find a way to grind out some offense.”

The match-up between teams with 15-5 records saw neither Hamden, from the Southern Connecticut Conference, nor FCIAC flag-holder Ludlowe back down.

The Falcons led 16-9 before the Dragons closed the gap to 19-17.

Ludlowe’s Chad Peterson drew a charging foul on Noble on Hamden’s next trip down court with 2:54 left in the half.

It negated a basket that would have tied the game. Noble took his 15 points and two fouls and grabbed a seat  on the bench alongside Hamden coach Jarrad Beck.

The Dragons went scoreless the rest of the half. In the meantime, Doyle made a jumper (at 2:40) and nailed two free throws (at 2:14).

After Owen Mockler came up with a steal in the lane, the senior forward fed Doyle. He showed off a hesitation dribble to keep a defender at bay, and then used his left hand to put the ball off the glass as the buzzer sounded.

Hamden scored the first three points of the third quarter to bring the score to 25-20.

With Hayes Kelchner, Peterson, Cole Prowitt-Smith, and Greg Lawrence doing a good job on the defensive glass, Ludlowe extended its lead to 12 points.

Senior co-captain Darren Lee stepped up big to get it started.

A 6-2 guard, Lee took the ball inside for a bucket,  then brought the student section of rooters in front of him to their feet by draining his second 3-pointer of the game.

After Christian Scott broke the skein from the block, Mockler assisted on Doyle’s jumper from the elbow. Lee next fed him on  a contested run out. The bucket gave Ludlowe a 34-22 lead with 4:17 left in the third.

Doyle assisted on Mockler’s transition basket, but Hamden ruled the final three minutes and made it a 37-34 game on Noble’s breakaway bucket.

“It was amazing,” Dailey said. “At one time we’re up by a dozen and it looks like we’re in control. Then they come back on us. I told the guys that we still had the lead and to keep their composure. What a great game.”

Prowitt-Smith turned the defensive table over on Hamden to start the final frame

The 5-foot-10 freshman jumped a pass and took off. He finished off his drive while being clobbered, got up and knocked down the free throw.

Bodies kept flying all over for the next two minutes, with neither team able to rise up and put points on the board.

Finally it was Noble, on a transition play after Mockler was laid out, who crashed to the court on a drive and got the whistle.

His two freebies brought Hamden within 40-38.

That’s when Peterson’s grit and Lee’s sharpshooting gave Ludlowe the edge it needed.

Peterson made the first of two free throws and then beat three players to a loose ball when his second shot failed to fall.

Lee made sure the extended possession didn’t go for naught, as he took Peterson’s pass from the opposite side of the court and swished home a 3-pointer.

Ludlowe led, 44-38, with 5:16 on the clock. It would need every point.

Blair Johnson hit a trey for Hamden, and after Peterson’s steal of an entry pass led to a Mockler deuce, the Dragons scored the next two baskets to bring the score to 47-45 with 1:34 remaining.

After both teams missed chances, Hamden inbounded the ball.

Mockler and Lee converged on the ball handler. He tried to pass out of the double team, and Doyle came up with the steal and was fouled with 17 seconds left.

He made one.

Hamden threw an errant pass to the baseline to give the ball back, and this time Doyle drained both from the stripe.

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