FAIRFIELD — Defense travels. Especially in the postseason.
The Stamford High School girls basketball team’s lockdown defense in the fourth quarter surrendered just four points to host Ludlowe and propelled the Black Knights to a 47-44 Class LL tournament first-round road triumph Tuesday night.
No. 19 seed Stamford (13-9) did not allow a Ludlowe point over the final six minutes of play to pull out the victory.
“Defensively, our young kids have bought in. Breanna Jacobs stood so tall on defense down the stretch,” Stamford coach Diane Burns said. “Jessica Nelson did a superb job on Ludlowe’s (senior and leading scorer) Bridget Paulmann. Bridget has been so great for them for four years. But Nelson was locked in on the task.”
Bridget Paulmann (10 points, four in 2nd half) scored Ludlowe’s final basket for a 44-42 edge with 6:00 to go.
Ludlowe had three separate offensive possessions in the final 2:26 but could not convert.
“We had a difficult time executing our offense in the fourth quarter. And we had some mental lapses on defense,” Ludlowe coach Sara Kinsley said. “Stamford is a determined, strong, athletic team. They outworked us in the second half.”
Stamford and No. 14 Ludlowe (14-8) are mirror images in the sense that both have youthful rosters.
Ludlowe graduates two senior starters while Stamford will graduate just one starter (Claudia Moses).
HEROES EMERGE FOR STAMFORD
Junior guard Megan Landsiedel, playing her first game this season without a protective wrap for her injured shoulder, paced Stamford with a game-high 17 points.
Most critical were her only pair of 3-pointers on the night in the final minutes of the third quarter, slicing Ludlowe’s lead to 40-38.
Nelson finished with 12 points. Stamford’s search for a third scorer ended in the second half. Center Dina Merone had two baskets while Jacobs, a freshman, withstood the punishing Ludlowe defense to score all six of her points in the second half.
“It’s always great to win. But the experience of playing in the state tournament for everybody is going to pay dividends in the long run. As we look ahead to next season,” Stamford coach Burns said. “We’ve been preaching defense all year. The kids saw the results tonight.”
FCIAC SEASON NEVER ENDS
The Class LL Tournament bracket appears to be a continuation of the FCIAC season.
Stamford will now travel to battle No. 3 Trumbull in Class LL 2nd round play. Trumbull toppled FCIAC rival New Canaan, 62-37 Tuesday night.
“The good news is it’s not as long a bus ride when you face FCIAC teams,” Burns laughed.
“Facing Trumbull again is an opportunity,” Landsiedel said. “We love playing teams we lost to earlier in the season. When we play good defense it helps us get into our offense. It was great to see everybody get involved tonight. Our young group has grown up so much over the course of the season.”
FUTURE BECKONS FOR LUDLOWE
Sophomore Anna Paulmann paced Ludlowe with 13 points. Sophomore Juliet Bucher scored eight of her 10 points in the second half.
“We accomplished so many goals during the season,” Kinsley said. “We are so motivated for next year. We will miss our seniors (Bridget Paulmann, Paige O’Connell). It’s hard to put into words what they meant to the program. They dedicated themselves totally and leave a legacy that will help so much going forward. Their hard work was a testament to our future.”