FAIRFIELD >> In a battle for key conference position Tuesday evening against Fairfield Ludlowe, the Warde girls’ basketball team turned to senior Kenzie Burns.
The senior scored a game-high 17 points and led a come-from-behind effort fueled by a pressure-style defense to collect the 52-47 victory over the Falcons.
“They did a nice job with their press, but you got to give Kenzie (Burns) (credit) she had an awesome game,” Ludlowe head coach Sarah Huntington said. “She played lights out tonight.”
The Mustangs (13-4, 12-3) moved into sole possession of fifth place in the FCIAC race as they have three games remaining in the regular season.
“I think we knew this was the year we needed to come out and do this,” Burns said.
The Mustangs fought from 11 points down in the third quarter, and battled back after a 6-0 run in the beginning of the fourth by the Falcons.
What worked for Warde was a relentless defensive effort and a balanced and patient offense. Warde slowly chipped away at the lead in thanks to some timely shots from Sarah Cotto. The Mustangs finally got ahead as Iliana Krasniqi scored and then Cotto drilled another 3-pointer that highlighted a 13-2 run as Warde led 50-45 with 1:19 left.
The Mustangs sealed the game with a few tough defensive stands, forcing a few turnovers.
“In this game we hit some key shots, but more importantly we had big possessions down the stretch where we slowed it down, didn’t rush and that’s the sign of a playoff team,” Warde head coach Dave Danko said. “That’s a hard team; they (Ludlowe) are relentless on the boards. We beat a very good team tonight.”
Added Huntington: “We got a little frazzled, we knew their press was coming, we talked about it, we prepared for it, and we just kind of got frazzled.”
What also contributed to the win was Warde’s balance. The Mustangs saw key minutes and possessions from an array of players. Cotto finished with 14 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Krasniqi added seven and senior Kaitlin McKenna chipped in eight.
“(The) freshmen grew up tonight; freshmen didn’t play like freshmen,” Danko said. “They played like upper classmen.Our depth was key tonight and I think we capitalized on that.”
Ludlowe (13-4, 11-4) was paced by Pauline Blatt and Alex McKinnon who each scored 12. The Falcons will get a tough test on Friday as they travel to Westhill.
“Westhill is definitely going to be tough,” Huntington said. “I think this was great preparation to go into Westhill.”