On a night when points were scarce, the Fairfield Ludlowe boys basketball team's only consistent source of offense struck when it mattered most.
Senior forward Patrick Gutierrez hit a 15-foot jumper over Staples' Peter Rankowitz as time expired Thursday, lifting the Falcons to a 32-30 home victory.
Gutierrez carried the cold-shooting Falcons the entire evening, leading the team with 16 points. He hit a bucket in the final minute to make it 28-28, and the Falcons took a two-point lead with 27 seconds left on a layup by sophomore guard Chad Peterson.
"I didn't know if it was going in, but I was happy I got it off at least, and get an opportunity," Gutierrez said of his game-winning shot in the left corner off the inbounds. "I got a good pass from my teammates, got it over a defender. He played me really hard."
The Falcons moved to 5-4 overall.
"We wanted him to get him a matchup because he can use his length to get that shot off," Ludlowe head coach Brian Silvestro said of the 6-foot-3 Gutierrez. "He likes to shoot that shot."
Staples also struggled to connect on offense and relied on one player for nearly all of its production. With the team's leading scorer, Rankowitz, limited to a season-low two points -- down from his season average of 19.8 points per game -- senior guard James Frusciante was able to drive to the basket consistently. Frusciante hit nine of the team's 11 field goals and racked up 26 points.
"(Rankowitz) had an off night but we've got to rally around him. I just was able to push the ball on the break and get down the floor," Frusciante said.
Frusciante, who came into the day the team's second leading scorer (16.1 points per game), recorded the Wreckers' final seven points. He put the Wreckers ahead 27-26 late in the fourth, and helped them expand that lead to two points with a free throw.
Up 28-26, the Wreckers had a chance to push the lead to three, or possibly four points, but junior guard David Katz missed two free throws.
After Frusciante was called for a blocking foul on Peterson's bucket with 27 seconds left, the Falcons' guard missed the ensuing free throw, keeping Staples within two. Frusciante drove down the floor on the Wreckers' next possession and knotted the game 30-30 with a layup.
Frusciante's best efforts, however, were not enough for Staples (3-5), now losers of four straight.
"You have to credit Fairfield Ludlowe for completely controlling the tempo of the game," Staples head coach Colin Devine said.
Fairfield Ludlowe -- now winners of three of its last four -- led 15-10 at halftime and 24-21 after three quarters.
Gutierrez got a little bit of help from junior Mark Malone, who scored seven points, but found himself in a one-on-one scoring battle with Frusciante most of the evening. The Falcons' forward scored six of his team's eight points in the second quarter, and had 10 points in the second half. He hit a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor early in the third to give the Falcons their largest lead at the time, 21-14.
Staples has now gone a full two weeks since its last win -- 66-57 over New Canaan on Dec. 27 -- but Devine is confident that the Wreckers can bounce back.
"We need to have an extreme sense of urgency to right this ship and to get on the winning path," he said. "I think we will because we have a great group of seniors."
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FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 32 STAPLES 30
Alex Addessi 0 0-0 0 Nicolaas Esposito 1 0-0 2 James Frusciante 9 4-5 26 Joe Greenwald 0 0-0 0 David Katz 0 0-2 0 Jacob Melnick 0 0-0 0 Peter Rankowitz 1 0-0 2 Nick Ward 0 0-0 0 Ross Whelan 0 0-0 0 Darryle Wiggins 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 4-7 30.
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (5-4)
Danny Santella 1 0-0 2 Owen Mockler 0 0-0 0 Matthew Doyle 0 0-0 0 Darren Lee 0 0-0 0 Chad Peterson 1 0-1 2 Mark Malone 2 2-2 7 Jonah Rosner 0 0-0 0 Patrick Gutierrez 7 0-0 16 Kiran Prakash 0 0-0 0 Jack Armstrong 0 0-0 0 Stephen Scholz 1 1-2 3 Connor Peterson 0 0-0 0 Alex Gorsuch 0 0-0 0 Brent Peiffer 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 3-5 32.
STAPLES 7 3 11 9 --30
LUDLOWE 7 8 9 8 -- 32
3-pointers: S -- Frusciante 2; L-- Gutierrez 2.