Ridgefield beats Warde; teams to play again in FCIACs

In a few days, when the stakes are higher, the Ridgefield High boys basketball team will make the same trip and gladly take the same outcome.

Weathering a late Fairfield Warde rally, Ridgefield held on to defeat the Mustangs, 72-64, in the final regular-season game Wednesday night at Warde.

The Tigers will now return to the scene of the victory on Saturday, when they play Warde in the FCIAC quarterfinals at noon. Although Ridgefield is seeded third and Warde sixth in the eight-team playoff field, the Mustangs get the home-court advantage because they are hosting all four quarterfinal contests.

A strong second quarter — Ridgefield outscored Warde, 21-11 — allowed the visitors to open a 37-27 halftime lead Wednesday night. The Tigers pushed their advantage to 16 points, 43-27, with 6:45 left in the third quarter before Warde scored 16 of the next 23 points to close within 50-43 entering the final eight minutes.

The Mustangs further cut their deficit to 62-60 with under three minutes left in the game. Brenden McNamara then hit a three-pointer to give Ridgefield some breathing room before Warde's Marcel Parsons scored on a left-handed layup, while falling to the floor, to make it 65-62 with 1:46 remaining.

With Ridgefield in the double bonus, McNamara was fouled and sank both free throws to put the Tigers ahead, 67-62, with 1:36 to play. Chris Longo was then fouled on a drive and hit one free throw to give Ridgefield a six-point lead, and the visitors added four more foul shots to close out Warde.

"What's happening is, at times of stress we're remembering what we're about and executing our plan," said Ridgefield head coach Andrew McClellan. "That's kind of what we did down the stretch."

McNamara finished with 20 points (nine in the fourth quarter) to lead the Tigers. Nick Laudati added 18 points and Joe Newborn had 12 points. Longo contributed nine points, while James St. Pierre had eight points and Alex Price had five points.

"Right now we feel like we can beat anyone we play," said McNamara. "We're playing really good basketball. We're putting up 60 to 70 points every game."

Now, with more on the line, the Tigers will look to beat Warde again on its home court this Saturday.

"I think being in this gym and coming back four days later, that can't hurt," said McClellan. "We're familiar with it and all that. We'll try to get everybody as healthy as we can. We'll try to get a really good gameplan. We'll try to make sure we're ready to go."

Press Sports Reporter Rich Kaufman contributed to this story.