FAIRFIELD — Until 7:15 on Tuesday night, you had to reside on the Fairfield Ludlowe campus to answer the following trivia question: Who is Mason Rush?
Bridgeport Central coach Barry McLeod now knows, and 17 of his colleagues who check out every box score will join him by Wednesday morning after Rush, a sparingly used reserve, scored a career-high 14 points in the Falcons’ 68-57 win.
On the surface, Rush was the person who jump-started the Falcons after they fell behind, 14-5, in the first five minutes. Rush, playing more because of an injury to center Hayes Kelchner, hit a baseline jumper and followed with two putbacks. The next time downcourt, Rush, who stands just over 6-feet, kept a ball alive on the offensive boards that led to a 3-point basket by Matt Doyle.
That was the start of 18 unanswered points that would turn into a 30-4 run that put the Falcons (10-3, 9-2 FCIAC) ahead, 35-18, and remove all suspense with 17 1/2 minutes still to play.
Ludlowe coach John Dailey said of Rush, “He had a ton of energy and went to the glass with aggression. “I’m really proud of his effort. He’s getting better and better every day. He’s got a lot of upside.”
Rush is really the answer to a deeper question than the one posed here in the first paragraph: What is the secret to the Falcons’ success so far?
While Doyle is going to score points and Chad Peterson is going to shut down the opposing team’s top player, Ludlowe has been one of the league’s surprise teams because different players take turns stepping up on different nights. Tuesday it was Rush.
“I felt at the start of the year we were a deep team,” Dailey said. “Any given person, any given night. Guys understand their roles.”
The Falcons are refreshing throwbacks, the kind of team on a high school version of SportsCenter you would need to wait 10-15 minutes before seeing its highlights.
Ludlowe does things like set screens, move without the ball, find the open man and play stifling defense.
“We’re starting to play a really good style of basketball,” said Doyle, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “Starting with our defense. It is really fun. Everyone gets involved. We’re running our offense and getting the best look possible.”
Dailey showed his acumen on the sideline after Central’s star, Marcus Blackwell, hit a pair of 3-point shots and scored his team’s first eight points. With the Hilltoppers ahead, 12-5, Dailey called a timeout, pulled Ludlowe out of a zone and put Peterson, considered by many the league’s best defender, on Blackwell. He scored just six points the rest of the way.
Ludlowe has the third best record in league play, but the naysayers like to point to its strength of schedule to date.
The easy refutation is Ludlowe is beating both the teams it should and those of comparable ability, building currency for the stretch run. Any criticism is unfair.
To their credit, the Ludlowe players are hardly fat cats.
“I still think we have something to prove,” Doyle said. “It’s been the easier part of our schedule. We’re excited for the challenges ahead.”
They start Friday night at home against Norwalk. Aside from a game with Darien, the remaining schedule includes Harding, Stamford, Westhill, Wilton and Danbury.
Dailey smiled as the list was repeated to him.
“Let’s take one game at a time,” he said, “and see what happens.”