The FCIAC is about to have a first-time boys basketball champion.
The rival Ridgefield Tigers and Wilton Warriors both advanced to the league finals for the first time with semifinal victories on Tuesday night at Fairfield University.
No. 3 Ridgefield scored a dramatic 67-63 win over the No. 7 Danbury Hatters in double overtime of the first game, while the No. 5 Warriors knocked off No. 1 Trumbull, 72-66, in the nightcap.
Ridgefield (16-6) and Wilton (17-5) will play for the FCIAC crown at 7 p.m., Thursday, at Warde, and the game will be carried live by the HAN Network, with a pregame show starting at 6:50 p.m.
- Watch Ridgefield vs. Danbury in FCIAC semis on demand, click here
- Watch Wilton vs. Trumbull in FCIAC semis on demand, click here
The Tigers might not have been roaring into the title game if not for a pair of dramatic moments by Zach Esemplare. The senior guard nailed a three-point basket from three feet beyond the arc to tie the score, 48-48, at the buzzer and send the game into overtime.
In the first OT, the Tigers were trailing by two points when Esemplare drove to the hoop and floated one in to again tie the game and force a second OT.
Given another chance to win it, Ridgefield took control and outscored the Hatters 10-6 in the second OT to get the win.
“This is amazing,” Esemplare told Scott Ericson of the Stamford Advocate. “I watched my brother play in FCIACs when I was in fifth grade and it has always been on my mind that we want to get there. The fact we have never been there before makes it even better.”
In the second game, the Warriors drained 10 three-pointers and pulled away from the Eagles in the second half to get the victory.
Drew Connolly, who went 9-for-10 from the free throw line, led Wilton with 19 points, and Jack Williams scored 18, including 12 on four three-pointers.
For Wilton, which started the season 10-0 before struggling at 5-5 in the second half of the schedule, the trip to the final has been a long time coming.
“I feel this team was ready to be in the championship game and I’m so excited for the kids,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak told John Misciosia of the Wilton Bulletin. “This has been five years in the making and we finally made it. The kids worked hard to get here, had to overcome injuries to key players, and some tough losses in the second half of the season. One of the key reasons we made it this year is that we have more depth on the team and these guys have played alongside each other for a long time.”