Defense lifts Ludlowe past Warde

The Fairfield Ludlowe boys basketball team defeated crosstown rivals Fairfield Warde, 42-30, on Tuesday night in an FCIAC matchup between two teams battling to qualify for the Class L state tournament.
Mark Malone poured in a game-high 19 points for the Falcons, who halted a three-game losing streak and moved within two victories of qualifying for postseason play.
“Tonight, he earned it,” Ludlowe coach Brian Silvestro said of his junior guard. “He played very smart tonight. I didn’t want him off the court.”
Ludlowe (6-7) pulled away with a 10-0 run that spanned the final two minutes of the third quarter and the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Falcons held Warde without a point for nearly six minutes, as Malone’s 3-pointer with 6:20 left to play staked Ludlowe to a 35-20 advantage.
Ludlowe maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way, despite shooting 5-for-12 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a real problem,” Silvestro said. “That’s the bugaboo.”
Warde (3-10) lost its fifth game in a row.
Sophomore guard Mark Byrne led the Mustangs with 11 points and Max Garrett added 10.
“You’re not going to win with two guys getting 21 and the rest of the team getting eight, nine points,” Warde coach Ryan Swaller said.
Ludlowe’s defensive tenacity, coupled with long offensive possessions, seemed to wear down the Mustangs.
Warde managed just four field goals in the first half and fell behind 23-12 at the half.
The Falcon defense, which harassed the Mustang shooters along the perimeter, and the crisp shooting of Malone (12 first-half points) staked Ludlowe to a lead it would not relinquish.
“I thought our defense was for real tonight,” Silvestro said.
“I thought we challenged every shot and we didn’t overplay… I never felt like (Warde) would ever get much of a run against us.”
The Mustangs made one big push in the third quarter, stringing together an 8-2 flurry that stated with Garrett’s jumper at the 7:37 mark.
Patrick Gutierrez converted a putback to make it 25-14 Ludlowe, before Garrett knocked down another jumper in the lane.
“Max did what Max does well,” Swaller said. “He attacked the basket and used his strength.”
A steal and a layup by Byrne, followed by an 18-footer from the sophomore, made it 25-20 with 2:52 left to play in the frame.
But, Falcon sophomore Matthew Doyle nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner off of an inbound play, igniting Ludlowe’s 10-0 burst that secured the victory.
Malone scored five points during the game-changing stretch.
“He played an amazing game,” Swaller said. “It felt like every time he shot it, it went in. I was just hoping he wouldn’t shoot it anymore.”
Garrett scored on back-to-back Mustang possessions to make it 35-24 with 3:45 left to play,
But, Ludlowe hit enough free throws to lock down the victory.
“It’s always whether or not we’re going to score enough points to beat somebody,” Silvestro said.

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