Boys Basketball

Second-Chance Points: Strong Senior Class Helps Falcons To Hot Start

Ian Bentley goes in for a layup during a win last month over Notre Dame-Fairfield. (Breda O’Sullivan)

Fairfield Ludlowe coach John Dailey named all eight of his seniors as captains for this season. One can imagine pregame instructions looking like a board meeting.

A cynic might say Dailey took the easy was out to maintain team peace. Or, Dailey could have a team so unified that playing favorites would disrupt chemistry.

“I couldn’t see picking out two or three of them,” Dailey said. “They just all bring something to the table, they’re four-year players, they’re great young men, they represent our program the right way and they’ve bought into their role, whatever it may be, and they’re great teammates. They’re all equally deserving.”

There is something to be said for unity. The Falcons enter a tough stretch, starting with tonight’s game against Trinity Catholic, with a 6-1 mark, 2-1 in conference play. There are some impressive wins on the resume. And the chances of returning to the FCIAC Tournament after a three-year absence are looking very strong.

Ludlowe won 10 games a year ago, getting past the first round of the state playoffs. Others saw mediocrity. Dailey, a glass-half-full kind of guy, saw a stepping stone.

“I thought we could be successful and we still have a long way to go,” Dailey said. “I knew we could win some games. I knew we’d be in a lot of close games and I still feel that way. I think guys were coming off a high from last year. We won some close games and we lost some close games. Hopefully when you’ve been through that you come back the next year and take it a step further.”

As one would expect from a team with eight captains, there are no standouts, no egos to control. Ian Bentley, a 6-6 wing, is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds a game. James Bourque is right behind in scoring. Sam Sweeney finished with a team-high 16 points in a win last week over Stamford. Patrick Kilbride is solid on the perimeter.

Ludlowe celebrated after winning the Fairfield Holiday Tournament for the first time in 10 years. (Art Cockerham)

“I think you need a few ingredients to be successful,” Dailey said. “First, you need some talent. That’s a gimme. We’ve got some players. Then you need leadership, you need experience and buy-in and we’ve got that. And the younger guys have all bought in, so you need that. And you need attention to detail. You have to have guys that want to defend and want to rebound and want to play hard every night. I think for the most part, minus the Trumbull game, we’ve done that.”

Ludlowe defeated Fairfield Warde to win the Fairfield Holiday Tournament for the first time in a decade. Ludlowe lost to its town rival three times last year. The lone blemish is a 14-point loss to Trumbull to start the new year.

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“I think any time you get a chance to win early it breeds confidence,” Dailey said. “I think the kids were feeling good about themselves. Maybe too good going into Trumbull. Starting 4-0 was a good thing for us, and I think it will pay dividends for us in the long run.”

The Falcons will learn a lot about themselves the next three weeks. They finish a three-game homestand Friday night against Ridgefield, then in succession face Danbury, New Canaan, Staples and Fairfield Warde. Only the game against the Rams is at home.

“You’ve got to play great to beat some of these teams,” Dailey said. “If we can play the way we’re capable of playing and get through this stretch we should be in good shape, but you have to take it one game at a time. These kids are just great to be around and a lot of fun to coach. It’s a lot more fun when you’re winning games.”

A Tough Gym Gets A Modern Look

Ridgefield has always had one of the best FCIAC homecourt advantages. Teams hate the trip to one of the league’s outposts, and one of the smaller gyms is usually close to one-quarter full with a student body that comprises one of the best area fan bases.

Now the Tigers’ gym has had a makeover and it has to be a pretty cool place to play. There is a new floor. One scoreboard gives you point totals of players on the court. And a second new scoreboard can display photos and graphics. It is a nice touch when the Ridgefield starting lineup goes through pregame introductions.

At the very least, it has to be cool place for the Tigers.

Bracketology

No. 1 Staples (7-0, 3-0) vs. No. 8 St. Joseph (3-2, 2-1)
No. 2 Ridgefield (5-1, 3-0) vs. No. 7 New Canaan (5-2, 2-1)
No. 3 Trumbull (5-2, 2-1) vs. No. 6 Fairfield Warde (4-1, 2-0)
No. 4 Fairfield Ludlowe (6-1, 2-1) vs. No. 5 Trinity Catholic (3-3, 2-1)