For the first time in their history, the Ridgefield Tigers are the FCIAC boys basketball champions.
The Tigers outlasted the Wilton Warriors and captured the crown with a 68-64 victory in double overtime before a capacity crowd Thursday night at Fairfield University’s Alumni Hall.
The game had been shifted from Fairfield-Warde High School to Fairfield University to accommodate the large crowd expected, and the fans didn’t disappoint, as the 2,800-seat arena was sold out.
Neither team had ever been to an FCIAC final before, and they delivered an instant classic, which ended when the third-seeded Tigers outscored the fifth-seeded Warriors 12-8 in the second OT.
“I’m proud of the fight and the never-ending battle,” Ridgefield head coach Andrew McClellan told Scott Ericson of the Stamford Advocate. “(There were) lots of guys just making plays. Even when you think we were done, they made one more play.”
The Tigers had the feeling of a team of destiny throughout the tournament. In the quarterfinals, a buzzer-beater Nick Laudati pushed them past Warde, 63-61.
In Tuesday’s semifinals against No. 7 Danbury, Zach Esemplare nailed a long-range three-point bucket as time expired, tying the score and send the game into overtime. He also hit for two points with five seconds remaining in overtime to force a second OT. Ridgefield eventually won, 67-63.
Two days later, the Tigers were again in double overtime and again came out on top to take the title
Brendan McNamara earned MVP honors after scoring 18 points, while Chris Longo had 17 and Esemplare had 12.
For Wilton, Matt Kronenberg had a game-high 31 points, and Drew Connolly scored 12. Wilton was without Jack Wood, who is done for the season with a leg injury.
Both teams only have a few days to recover, as the state tournaments begin early next week. Ridgefield is the No. 15 seed in Class LL and will host No. 18 Shelton (13-7) at 7 p.m., Monday, March 6, while Wilton is the No. 6 seed in Class L and will host No. 27 Woodstock Academy (8-12) at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 7.
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FCIAC Boys Basketball Final – Ridgefield 68, Wilton 64 (2 OT)
At Alumni Hall, Fairfield University, March 2
Wilton 15-13-9-12-7-8 = 64
Ridgefield 13-8-12-16-7-12 = 68
Wilton: Matt Kronenberg 11 8-9 31; Drew Connolly 5 2-5 12; Kyle Maatallah 2 4-4 8; Robert Hermann 1 2-6 4; Sean Breslin 1 0-0 3; Jack Williams 1 0-0 2; Kyle Shifrin 1 0-0 2; Scott Cunningham 1 0-0 2. Total 23 16-24 64.
Ridgefield: Brenden McNamara 6 5-9 18; Chris Longo 4 7-11 17; Zach Esemplare 3 6-8 12; Joseph Newborn 2 4-6 8; Nick Laudati 2 4-6 8; Luke McGarrity 1 3-4 5; Alexander Price 0 0-2 0. Totals 18 29-46 68.
Three-pointers: Wilton – Matt Kronenberg, Sean Breslin; Ridgefield – Chris Longo 2, Brendan McNamara.