Ridgefield beats Warde, moves closer to top seed

Matthew Eiben and the Ridgefield boys basketball are 15-2 going into the final three regular-season games.

Matthew Eiben and the Ridgefield boys basketball are 15-2 going into the final three regular-season games.

Contributed photo / Ridgefield boys basketball

With a 69-61 victory over Fairfield Warde on Monday night, the Ridgefield boys basketball came a little closer to securing the top seed in the fast-approaching conference playoffs.

Ridgefield improved to 15-2 overall and 12-1 in the FCIAC, staying one game ahead of Trinity Catholic. Each team has three regular-season games remaining, and Trinity holds the tiebreaker following a win earlier this season over the Tigers.

Warde (13-4, 10-3) entered Monday’s game with a chance to stake its own claim for the top seed. But Ridgefield opened a 20-point lead in the second quarter and went on to beat the Mustangs.

“We followed our game plan very closely tonight and were able to have fun ... ” Ridgefield head coach Andrew McClellan said.

Warde stayed close through the first eight minutes, trailing 12-10 at the end of the first quarter. But the Tigers then scored 18 straight points to go ahead 30-10. Luke McGarrity and Amos Grey each had five points for Ridgefield during the run.

The Mustangs had an 8-0 run of their own but still trailed 36-22 at halftime.

“In the first quarter we were too amped up and were frantic with the ball,” said McClellan. “Eventually we started to share the ball, make the plays, and find opportunities to play Tiger Basketball.”

After Warde got within 36-31 on Justyn Davis’s 3-pointer, Chris Knachel scored eight of his 20 points to help Ridgefield take a 49-37 lead into the final quarter.

“This was definitely one of our biggest games of the year, but we control our own destiny — we have to start thinking about our approach for the next ones,” said Knachel. “Every game is a group effort and we really had the entire bench contributing in some way tonight.”

Warde applied full-court, man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter, but McGarrity made 11 free throws to help the Tigers stay ahead.

McGarrity finished with a game-high 21 points, combining with Knachel to score 41 points. James Rush and Grey each added seven points and Johnny Briody had six.

Jack McKenna led Warde with 20 points, followed by Jordyn Davis with 14 and Justyn Davis with 12.