FAIRFIELD — Staples center Arianna Gerig stood at the free-throw line, two shots coming and the game riding on what she did. She had missed six free throws leading up to this moment and with the Wreckers trailing by one point with 4.1 seconds left in overtime, Gerig needed to make both free throws to erase Ludlowe’s one-point lead.
She did exactly that.
Gerig calmly made both free throws and the Falcons’ last-second half-court heave didn’t find the mark as Staples rallied for a 54-53 victory Monday over a determined Ludlowe squad that played its hearts out on Senior Night.
“I’m am extremely proud of my girls tonight,” Ludlowe coach Sara Kinsley said. “I think, defensively, we executed everything that we came into this game planning to execute. We knew Staples’ strengths and we controlled our end of the game.”
Unfortunately, the Falcons could not totally control Gerig. The sophomore worked the low blocks to the tune of 32 points as the Wreckers improved to 14-6 overall and 11-5 in the FCIAC, locking down one of the eight playoff positions.
“Ludlowe did a great job of working to take the ball out of Arianna’s hands, double-teaming her the whole game and because of that, we had a lot of trouble scoring in the first half,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “We finally made some shots in the second half. That was a great game, hard for both teams.”
Having trouble scoring early on was an understatement for Staples. With Ludlowe’s Paige O’Connell in Gerig’s face all game long, the Falcons held Staples to just three free throws in the first quarter, as the home team opened a 15-3 lead.
“It was funny because the first time we played them (a 51-45 Staples victory on Dec. 27), we were also down more than 10 (points) to them,” Fabian said. “But like then, we stayed calm and we reminded them of what we did.”
A 10-0 run that turned into a 17-8 burst pulled Staples within 23-20 at halftime — despite the Wreckers going just 6 of 17 from the free-throw line in the opening two quarters.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Fabian said. “I just can’t tell you how hard of a game this was of my girls physically. We were absolutely thrilled to be down just three at halftime.”
From there, neither Staples nor Ludlowe held a lead greater than six points and over the final quarter, the lead changed hands eight times — the final time when Gerig made her free throws late in overtime.
“I just knew I had to make them for my team,” Gerig said. “I had to do it for my seniors to get them one last home game (states). I was just thinking about the team and what they would mean.”
This game had big FCIAC playoff implications as Ludlowe was sitting in the eighth and final playoff position with Staples just ahead in seventh place. The Wreckers have now locked down a spot in the eight-team field and the Falcons still control their own destiny for the eighth spot if they can defeat Warde on Wednesday.
“We’re looking to finish the season big on Wednesday,” Kinsley said. “We still have one more game and we’re going to do everything we can to win that game.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Staples center Arianna Gerig. Despite struggling from the free-throw line (missing six free throws), the sophomore scored a game-high 32 points to carry the Wreckers to a huge FCIAC victory.
“Anna’s mental strength carried the team tonight in times of need. I think that the connection that Anna and Bridget (Paulmann) have to the court is very clear and we’re lucky to have the two of them playing together and making plays for each other.” — Ludlowe coach Sara Kinsley on the play of freshman Anna Paulmann, who scored 23 points for the Falcons.