With 3:40 left, down 10 points in the FCIAC championship game, the Ridgefield boys basketball team was on wobbly legs with Danbury readying to deliver the knockout blow.
That knockout would not come as fifth-seed Ridgefield rallied, closing the game on a 15-2 run to shock third-seed Danbury, 52-49, and win a second conference title in three years Thursday night at the Zeoli Field House in Wilton.
It was a matchup of the previous two FCIAC champions with Danbury winning last season and the Tigers prevailing in 2017.
James St. Pierre’s drive and layup with 1:16 left gave Ridgefield its first lead since late in the first quarter, and Luke McGarrity sank four free throws in the final minute to clinch the victory.
“Coach (Andrew McClellan) did a great job keeping us composed. He told us ‘don’t throw in the towel,’ ” St. Pierre said. “We believed in ourselves and we believed in each other and I am so proud of my teammates tonight. We are back on top. This one feels a little bit sweeter. Now, I am going to go celebrate with my teammates.”
St. Pierre struggled at times over the first three quarters but came alive down the stretch, scoring 13 of his game-high 24 points over the final eight minutes of the game.
Ridgefield (17-6) was down by as many as 14 points in the third quarter and trailed 43-32 going into the final period.
The Tigers went to a full-court, trapping defense, speeding up the Hatters and causing turnover after turnover during the improbable rally.
“It’s a tough one and it’s going to be tough to swallow for a while,” Danbury coach Casey Bock said. “The press sped us up a little, but we just didn’t execute down the stretch. I thought they did a good job of pressing up on us and they took Javon (Hernandez) away, which hurt us. They sped us up and we made some bad decisions.”
Danbury (16-7) was paced by 15 points from Hernandez and 12 from Keon Moore.
McGarrity added 13 points for the Tigers, including a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to go along with his four free throws.
Ridgefield held Danbury to just six points in the fourth quarter while the Tigers scored 19.
The Hatters cut the Ridgefield lead to 50-49 with 18.3 seconds left on a jumper from the right side by Hernandez, but two McGarrity free throws pushed the lead back to three.
Danbury got off 3-pointer with under three seconds left, but the shot hit off the rim and ended up out of bounds.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
James St. Pierre, Ridgefield. There was little doubt who would be named MVP, with St. Pierre taking home the honors after his incredible fourth quarter and stellar tournament.
“We always talk about playing 32 minutes and today we had big performances all over the place,” Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said. “We expect that from James (St. Pierre). He struggled a little bit but he’s the ultimate competitor and just made big-time plays. Player-of-the-year-type plays. I am super proud of him. I have never had a kid that works as hard as him every single day and it is great for it to play out for him and us like this. It’s deserving.”
RIDGEFIELD 52, DANBURY 49
RIDGEFIELD 13 9 10 19–52
DANBURY 17 8 8 6–49
RIDGEFIELD– James St. Pierre 9 4-4 24; Chris Knachel 2 0-0 4; Cameron Andry 0 0-0 0; Nick Hall 0 0-0 0; John Briody 1 0-0 3; Matt DeLuca 2 2-2 6; Luke McGarrity 3 5-6 13; Matt Misurelli 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 11-12 52
DANBURY– Jaden Cook 2 0-0 5; Jah Joyner 4 0-1 8; Denali Burton 2 2-2 9; Keyon Moore 5 0-0 12; Javon Hernandez 6 1-2 15; Ramir Rivera 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 5-6 49
3-point field goals: R—Briody, St. Pierre 2, McGarrity 2; D—Burton, Moore 2, Hernandez 2