Norwalk upsets reigning champ Ridgefield in FCIAC quarterfinals
It was the type of close, low-scoring game that the Ridgefield High boys basketball team had a habit of winning during the regular season.
So when the top-seeded Tigers ended the third quarter with a 10-4 run to take a 34-32 lead over eight-seed Norwalk in an FCIAC quarterfinal Saturday night, a familiar narrative seemed likely: Ridgefield would do enough to stay ahead, get the victory, and take the first step toward defending its conference title.
Only this time, in the biggest game of the season so far, the plot twisted ugly on the Tigers.
Led by Tyrique Langley, Norwalk regained the lead early in the fourth quarter and went on to topple Ridgefield, 59-50, at Fairfield Warde High School. The Bears outscored Ridgefield, 27-16, in the final eight minutes.
With a second straight FCIAC championship off the table, the Tigers (16-5) will now get ready for the Division I state tournament, which begins March 5.
Langley (28 points) was the catalyst for Norwalk's upset win Saturday night. As usual, the senior guard was able to exploit his quickness and get to the hoop for baskets and free throws. But with his less reliable jump shot also on target, Langley was impossible to stop.
After Brenden McNamara scored off an inbounds play to put Ridgefield ahead 38-37 with 6:29 remaining, Langley hit a free throw and a layup for a 40-38 Norwalk lead.
The Bears didn't trail again. Baskets by Conner Mastropietro and Zyaire Sellers extended Norwalk's lead to 46-41 before Alex Price hit a three-pointer to get Ridgefield within two points, 46-44, with 2:59 left.
Following missed shots by both teams, Ridgefield had a chance to tie the game when McNamara grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled while shooting with 1:39 to play. But McNamara missed both free throws and Sellers hit both ends of a one-and-one to put Norwalk ahead 48-44.
The Bears then came up with a steal and Sellers scored on a put-back to make it 50-44 with just over a minute left.
Ridgefield's James St. Pierre had a three-point shot blocked and Norwalk grabbed the loose ball. Langley was fouled and sank both free throws for a 52-44 advantage. Izaiah Lopez then stole the ball in the Ridgefield backcourt and was fouled, hitting two free throws to give the Bears a 54-44 lead.
McNamara drilled a three-pointer for the Tigers, but Langley answered with two free throws. Another McNamara three-pointer cut Norwalk's lead to 56-50 with 23 seconds left, but the Bears added a free throw and a layup at the buzzer to close out Ridgefield.
McNamara finished with 26 points to lead the Tigers and nearly match Langley's total. St. Pierre added 10 points (all in the third quarter) while Price had seven points and Chris Knachel contributed six points. Jackson Mitchell hit a free throw for one point to round out the Ridgefield scoring.
Notes: Sellers added 17 points for Norwalk, which had lost to Ridgefield, 64-60, in a regular-season game Feb. 15.
Norwalk (13-8) will now play fifth-seed Trumbull in the second of two conference semifinals on Tuesday night (7:45) at Wilton High School. Second-seed Trinity Catholic and third-seed Danbury meet in the first semifinal at 6 p.m.