McClellan proud of team's first FCIAC regular-season title

After winning 16 of its first 19 games, the Ridgefield High boys basketball team ended the 2017-18 season with three straight losses. Those setbacks included losses to Norwalk in the FCIAC playoffs and Hamden in the Division I state tournament.

Despite those early exits, Ridgefield head coach Andrew McClellan said there was much to be proud of this season.

“The end of the season wasn’t ideal,” said McClellan, whose team finished with a 16-6 overall record. “But all-in-all I would call this a great season. We really maxed out our talent and the kids took the coaching really well and played as a team.”

The Tigers went 16-4 during the regular season and had the best record (14-2) in FCIAC play for the first time in program history.

“To win a regular-season championship in the FCIAC … to me that’s historic and almost a bigger deal than the [first-ever] conference title we won last season,” added McClellan. “It was something that took over three months to accomplish, not just three [FCIAC] playoff games.”

Seeded 11th in the ultra-competitive Division I field, the Tigers received a bye in the opening round of the state tournament before falling to Hamden, 81-69.

Ridgefield recovered from an early 21-6 deficit to get within 26-15 by the end of the first quarter. The Tigers further whittled Hamden’s lead down to 33-29 with 1:11 left in the second quarter before the Green Dragons went on a 7-0 run to go ahead 40-29 at halftime.

“We made some uncharacteristically bad choices at the end of the second quarter,” said McClellan. “We took some bad shots and had some turnovers that Hamden turned into points.”

James St. Pierre’s three-pointer at the end of the third quarter got Ridgefield within 55-52 entering the final eight minutes. The Tigers were still within five points with just over three minutes remaining in the fourth period, but Hamden used a 5-0 run to open a 10-point lead. Ridgefield was then forced to foul, and the Green Dragons made enough free throws to close out the victory.

St. Pierre, a junior guard, hit five three-pointers and led Ridgefield with 25 points.

In his final high school game, 6’5” senior forward Brenden McNamara added 15 points for the Tigers.

Junior point guard Luke McGarrity contributed 11 points, and senior guard Alex Price had nine points.

Sophomore Chris Knachel (four points) and juniors Jackson Mitchell (three points) and Nick Hall (two points) also scored for the Tigers.

“When you consider last year’s FCIAC title and this season’s regular-season title, this group has accomplished more than any other at Ridgefield High,” said McClellan. “They have a lot to proud of.”

Notes: McNamara averaged 19.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for Ridgefield this season. He finished his high school career with 806 points.

“He’s really a self-made player,” said McClellan about McNamara, who will play NCAA Division III basketball at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. “When Brenden was a freshman no one would have thought he would become the player he is now.”

St. Pierre averaged 15.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season and led the Tigers with 54 three-pointers. Price added 45 three-pointers and averaged 9.5 points per game.