Veillette leads balanced-scoring to propel Ridgefield past Newtown for Tyler Ugolyn tournament title

RIDGEFIELD — It seemed fitting that the Ridgefield boys’ basketball team would win the first ever Tyler Ugolyn Memorial Tournament, which is what the the Tigers did on Wednesday night, defeating Newtown 83-62.

The tournament was held in memory of former Ridgefield basketball player Tyler Ugolyn, who was killed in the September 11th attacks in 2001.

Since his death, Ridgefield has made a tradition of giving his previous jersey number, 34, to the player who best exemplifies the great character of Ugolyn.

“This was the first one after trying to start it last year, obviously that didn’t happen,” Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said. “This is my ninth year and every year we pick a senior who best displays the characteristics of Tyler, and it is a big deal for the kids. The family also gives out a scholarship to the kid who wears it every year.”

This year 34 is dawned by Matthew Knachel, a senior who made his season debut after being sidelined by an arm injury.

“He is a three-year varsity player that was first team All-FCIAC last year,” McClellan said. “This was his first game back after breaking his arm in a fall league game. It was nice that he was able to get out here for this game wearing 34.”

Before the game, a tribute video was played honoring the life of Ugolyn with his family among those in attendance. For Knachel in his first game back, there was more than enough motivation.

“It means a lot, it is an honor that it is passed down every year to a different senior so being 34 in these circumstances meant a lot to me,” Knachel said. “Watching that video, I reflected on conversations I’ve had with Tyler’s father, and it was very moving.”

The tournament was originally comprised of four teams, but Amity and Kolbe Cathedral were forced to drop out due to COVID protocols, setting up the Newtown-Ridgefield championship game.

Knachel (10 points) was among four Ridgefield players with double-digit points, along with senior Justin DiFabio (12) and sophomore Allister Walsh (13). Sophomore Dylan Veillette led all scorers with 33 points for the Tigers.

Newtown was led by Liam O’Connell’s 21 points on five three pointers and Joe McCray’s 23-point performance.

Ridgefield led 15-14 after the first quarter but widened the gap to nine at halftime.

“We were a little bit rusty at the beginning of the game,” McClellan said. “One of our best characteristics is our ability to grind through games. We tried too hard to blow them out in the first quarter but that is a good team. At the end of the day they just couldn’t quite last 32 minutes with our guys.”

The defending FCIAC champions are now 2-0 to start the season and have won both games by over 20 points.

“We expect to be very good this year, but we take it one game at a time,” McClellan said. “We have won four of the last five FCIAC championships, but we don’t talk about that end goal. We are just trying to get better, and we have a long way to go.”

The season is young and there are plenty of games before playoffs, but for Ridgefield in its inaugural tournament, keeping the trophy at home is the perfect start.

“It is a little bit of a bonus for the trophy to stay here,” McClellan said. “Hopefully we play this tournament 20 times and we win it a lot.”


Newtown14 10 24 14 — 62

Ridgefield15 18 21 29 — 83

Newtown (1-2)

Joe McCray 8 1 5-6 23, Makai Coleman 3 1 2-3 11, Isaiah Williams 0 0 4-6 4, Liam O’Connell 7 5 2-3 21, Declan Regan 1 0 0-0 2, Cam Ward 1 0 0-0 2.

Ridgefield (2-0)

Justin DiFabio 4 3 1-2 12, Alister Walsh 4 0 5-6 13, Evan Kozdeba 0 0 2-2 2, Jack Michalowski 2 2 0-0 6, Carson Lust 1 0 0-0 2, Sean Sosa 2 0 0-0 4, Dylan Veillette 10 1 12-14 33, Matthew Knachel 4 0 2-4 10.