FAIRFIELD — Losing by 29 points in a game that was billed as a battle of 11-3 contenders obviously left St. Joseph boys basketball coach Kevin Wielk besides himself afterwards. With his head hanging rather low, he offered no postgame comment other than to simply say, “We didn’t play well.”
But in all fairness, it wasn’t simply a matter of how poorly the Cadets played tonight. It was more about Fairfield Ludlowe turning in as close to a perfect game as a team can play at the high school level.
“When we play like this,” Ludlowe coach John Dailey said after his team’s 83-54 FCIAC victory, “we can beat anybody.”
Ludlowe (12-3, 8-3 FCIAC) jumped out to a 16-1 lead and never allowed St. Joseph to get back in the game. They made 12 3-pointers and shot 50 percent from the field. Led by Ian Bentley, who had 15 points and 16 rebounds despite not playing at all in the fourth quarter, the Falcons dominated the boards and kept the Cadets’ vaunted backcourt duo of Paul Fabbri and Jason James to a combined 13 points (11 from Fabbri).
Even more amazing, the Falcons did not commit a turnover until just 3:15 remained in the third quarter.
“We executed on every facet of the game,” Bentley said. “It was one of my better games but everybody contributed.”
Pat Leverty made six treys and finished with 18 points for Ludlowe while James Bourque added 15 points for the Falcons, who were routed 60-36 by crosstown rival Warde a week ago.
“We talked a lot about responding after the Warde game,” Dailey said. “We showed no toughness at all in that game, very uncharacteristic of this team. But we learned from it. And then got more confident against Darien (last Friday in a 87-75 victory).”
“We were embarrassed against Warde,” Bentley added. “Darien was a step in the right direction and it culminated today. That’s two 80-point games in a row after scoring 36 against Warde.”
The Cadets (11-4, 9-3) knew they were in trouble four minutes into the game when they were trailing by 15 points. They made one field goal in that opening quarter and were 5 for 25 from the field by halftime, when they went into the locker room facing a 42-21 deficit.
“The first quarter we were pretty efficient,” Bailey said of the Falcons’ 23-5 lead. “It was great for our confidence.”
The situation never improved for the Cadets. Soon they trailed by 26, then 30 (66-36). The great game everyone anticipated inside the Ludlowe gym never materialized. Not even close.
“When we keep our turnovers down, we’re tough to beat,” Bentley said. “We knew we had a size advantage and this was one of our best rebounding games. But everything worked.”
Ludlowe enjoyed a 38-28 edge on the boards.
As Ludlowe continues its rebound following the Warde blowout with back-to-back victories, St. Joseph suffered its second straight loss following nine-game winning streak. First came a four-point loss to Trumbull last Friday.
The Cadets started cold, making one out of seven field goal attempts in the opening quarter, to go with six turnovers, and never got going. After the dreadful start they continued to miss, making just 15 of 48 shots in the final three quarters.
Even Fabbri, their leading scorer, was shut down in the second half as he scored all 11 of his points before halftime.
“The 12 3’s sure helped but it all started on defense for us,” Dailey said. “Fabbri and James are great guards but we shut them down.”
Bentley looked like he was on his way to a 20-20 game but Dailey emptied the bench in the final quarter.
“When (Bentley) wants to play he is so good,” Dailey said. “He can change the game because he’s so long.”
The revived Falcons will try to continue their winning ways Thursday at Westhill. Meanwhile, it won’t get any easier for St. Joseph, which will host FCIAC-leading and defending conference champion Ridgefield on Friday.
NOTES: Ludlowe, which has never won an FCIAC championship, forced 11 turnovers and committed seven, although all seven came in the final 11:15. St. Joseph was 16 for 55 from the floor while the Falcons made 32 of 64 shots, including 12 of 25 (48 percent) from 3-point range. Rowan Keesser added six rebounds for Ludlowe while James had five to lead the Cadets, who are looking for their first league crown since 2000.