Lauralton wears South-West crown well

For the third consecutive year, the Lauralton Hall basketball team is the South-West Conference champion after defeating Kolbe Cathedral, 45-36, in Monroe on Feb. 27.

Carly Fabbri led all scorers with 21 points, including a pair of 3-pointers while Emily Menendez added eight for the Crusaders (22-1).

Denisha Gardner led Kolbe with 11 points. Kiara Epps added eight for the Cougars (17-5).

“It was a hard-fought game and they were literally exhausted after the end of the game,” Lauralton coach Amanda Forcucci said. “In the end, that’s what you want you want, to leave it all out there, you wanna leave one hundred and ten percent out there.

“When they come off all drained like that and you got the W, it just feels that much better.”

Lauralton was aided by 14 trips to the foul line, most during the last five minutes of the game to help seal the victory. The Crusaders shot 15 of 28 from the line. Kolbe was 3 for 10.

Kolbe started off the game with a 5-0 run, as the Cougars were stopping Lauralton defensively and controlling possession in the early going.

“That was why our offense stalled,” Forcucci said. “They played amazing defense. You play each other in the regular season. We know them, they know us, so they were ready, we were ready and hats off to them, they did a nice job.”

The Crusaders turned the tables and went on a 7-2 run, before they finished the first quarter on an 8-4 run to lead 15-11 at the break.

Menendez started the run on a pick and roll, finishing with a layup at the basket. Fabbri then hit a three from two feet past the arc and Menendez posted up down low for a pass from Maureen Connolly to tie the game at seven.

Epps broke the run with a layup but Maggie Salandra answered with a layup of her own to knot it at nine.

Emma McCarthy then hit a three before Fabbri made one of two at the stripe and Menendez hit two at the line to give Lauralton a 15-11 lead.

After Epps started the second with a jumper, Salandra answered with a jump shot and Connolly followed with a layup.

Fabbri scored four straight points to give Lauralton a 23-13 lead.

Kolbe answered with a 5-2 run to end the half, but Lauralton led 25-18.

“In the first half, our shots weren’t falling so the message at halftime was attack,” Fabbri said. “Just keep attacking the basketball. They’re going to foul us and that’s what they did. They got us to the foul line at the end of the game, which was really important for us to make shots.”

Again Kolbe started the half on a 6-1 run. Lauralton countered with an 8-0 run to finish the third, starting with a Connolly drive then six straight points for Fabbri for a 34-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“Carly’s got a nose for scoring,” Forcucci said. “Whenever we’re stalling offensively we try to run some plays for her or she likes to create within our continuity. She has the ability to create her own shot whether it is for her or for somebody else.”

In the fourth quarter, the battle continued. The Cougars struck first with jump shots from Leah Hodges and Gardner to make it a six-point game.

Fabbri answered with a hook shot and Connolly and Menendez followed with free throws to make it a 38-28 game once again.

The Lauralton lead stayed close to double digits. Weaver hit another layup to make it 44-34 with time running out for the Cougars.

Connolly then made one of two from the line to make it 45-34, before Nakayla Nelson finished the game with an uncontested layup as Lauralton defeated Kolbe 45-36.

“We have to try new things, whenever you play in games that are close,” Forcucci said. “We have to run the gamut of our offense. Switching kids around on defense, all those things are special to prepare us for down the road. You don’t know what’s going to happen because from here on out its one and done.”

Lauralton is seeded second in Class LL and has a first round bye. The Crusaders will host either Ridgefield or Fairfield Ludlowe tonight at 7.