Over the course of three wire-to-wire quarters, Tuesday night’s game between Staples and Ridgefield was precisely what one might have expected from two girls basketball teams vying for a berth in the conference playoffs.
There were 20 lead changes through the first three periods, which ended with the teams tied 36-36.
But Staples then hit 17 fourth-quarter free throws to create separation en route to a 59-45 victory over host Ridgefield.
With three regular-season games left, Staples is now 9-5 in conference play (11-6 overall) and sixth in the overall conference standings. The top-eight teams qualify for the FCIAC playoffs.
Ridgefield fell to 8-8 overall and 7-5 in the conference. The Tigers are currently eighth in the FCIAC standings, one-half game ahead of St. Joseph (7-6). Ridgefield and St. Joseph play Friday night in Trumbull in a game that could determine which team makes the conference postseason.
On Tuesday night, Staples outscored Ridgefield, 23-9, in the final quarter.
“We simply didn’t finish,” Ridgefield head coach Tom DiMarzo said. “There’s a very small margin of error when you only score 45 points and we let ours get away from us.”
Megan Klosowski’s bucket gave the Tigers a four-point lead with 5:16 left in the third quarter, but Staples got a buzzer-beating basket from Ellie Fair to tie the score at 36 going into the final eight minutes.
Kate Wagner’s free throw put the Tigers in front, 37-36, but Staples responded by scoring the next 10 points — six of which came on free throws. The Wreckers gradually widened their lead after that, with Marisa Shorrock hitting 10 free throws.
The game was decided at the foul line: Staples converted 24 of its 31 free throws, while Ridgefield made five of seven.
“We didn’t win the foul game tonight, and we put a good foul-shooting team on the line,” DiMarzo said. “[Staples] simply ended up being the better team tonight; they took advantage of every opportunity we gave them and that’s on us.”
Notes: The teams were tied 11-11 at the end of the first quarter, and Ridgefield took a 27-25 halftime lead. Kelly Chittenden excelled for the Tigers in the first half, scoring 10 of her team-high 13 points.
“We kept trying to hold it together at the end and that’s something we have to do in these final games to secure that FCIAC position,” said Chittenden.“By focusing on each game as it comes we can work our way to the postseason.”
Katie Flynn added 10 points and eight rebounds for Ridgefield. Kate Garson finished with six points, and Sabrina Grizzaffi and Klosowski each scored four points.
Shorrock led Staples with 18 points, followed by Fair with 13 points.