Ridgefield hammers Masuk in boys hoop tourney opener

This one was over early.

After opening an 18-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Ridgefield boys basketball team went on to rout Masuk, 79-35, in the first round of the Hardwood Holiday Classic on Wednesday night at Ridgefield High.

“One of our biggest slogans for tonight was respect your opponent," said Ridgefield head coach Andrew McClellan. "When we respect our opponent the way we did on defense and offense it allowed us to execute both game plans really well.”

The Tigers (2-1) will now play unbeaten Bassick (3-0) in the tournament's championship game on Friday night at 7 p.m. at RHS. Bassick crushed Bunnell, 100-75, in the opening contest Wednesday.

Twelve players scored points for Ridgefield in the win over Masuk. Senior Brenden McNamara had a team-high 19 points, with junior James St. Pierre adding 17 points and sophomore Chris Knachel contributing 12 points.

The game began with McNamara draining a three-pointer and Ridgefield creating havoc on defense by aggressively pressing the Panthers.

“What we wanted to do was pressure them and speed them up," said McClellan. "That was our defensive philosophy tonight. We’ll do that against a lot of people when we feel like we’re more athletic ... we’ll make them play what we think is faster than they want to play.”

The high pressure caused Masuk (1-2) to turn the ball over on its opening possession. On Masuk’s second possession, Ridgefield's Ryan Malley forced a five-second call that gave the ball back to the Tigers. Even after a Masuk timeout, the pattern continued: Jackson Mitchell's steal resulted in the Panthers' third turnover in under three minutes.

It wasn’t just the defense that shined for Ridgefield in the opening quarter. The offense was on fire from long range, hitting five three-pointers (two from senior Alex Price) as the Tigers built a 24-6 lead through the first eight minutes.

The blowout continued in the second quarter, with Ridgefield pushing its lead to 36-6 within the first four minutes. More three-point shooting and clutch defense put the Tigers ahead 49-14 at halftime.

Ridgefield struggled for the first minute of the third quarter, allowing a basket and missing several shots. But a three-pointer from McNamara got Ridgefield back on track, and strong rebounding from Mitchell helped Ridgefield extend its lead to 58-23.

With under five seconds left in the quarter, Knachel intercepted a Masuk pass and hit a long three-pointer as time expired to make it 61-23 going into the final period.

“Our offense was firing on all cylinders today and our defense was rock solid," said Malley. "Overall it was a great game and we’re looking forward to playing Bassick on Friday.

Notes: Ridgefield played the game without sophomore point guard Luke McGarrity, who is expected to miss between three and six weeks with a broken thumb.

“It’s a huge blow to our team and he’s a great kid who was ready to have a big season for us," said McClellan. "On the other side, it presents an opportunity for a lot of people to get a little more time because he [McGarrity] was going to play huge minutes for us. We expect him ... by the middle to end of the season ... to be ready to go and step right back in and play a huge role for us."

Price finished with nine points for Ridgefield. Nick Hall and Mitchell each added four points, and Cameron Andry and Matthew DeLuca each had three points. Malley, Ryan Garson, Weston Carpenter, and Johnny Briody contributed two points apiece.

Masuk and Bunnell will play in the consolation game on Friday at 5.