Stietzel's trey helps Ridgefield upset Trumbull in FCIAC quarterfinals
As Cali Stietzel stood in the hallway being interviewed, her teammates inside the locker room began a cheer.
"Cali ... Cali ... Cali," they chanted. "Cali ... Cali."
Cali, indeed. Stietzel's 3-pointer with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter was the game-winner as seventh-seed Ridgefield upset second-seed Trumbull, 41-40, in the FCIAC quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Fairfield Ludlowe.
"To be able to hit that shot was amazing," said Stietzel, a sophomore reserve guard for the Tigers. "It's just unbelievable really."
Stietzel's trey came just eight seconds after Ali Palmieri hit a 3-pointer to put Trumbull ahead, 40-38. Following Stietzel's go-ahead basket, Palmieri misfired on another 3-point attempt and committed a foul on the rebound.
Ridgefield's Megan Klosowski missed the front end of the resulting one-and-one with 8.8 seconds left and Trumbull snared the rebound and called timeout. But Koslowski then stole the inbound pass and dribbled out the clock, sending the Tigers (12-9) into the semifinals against third-seed Trinity Catholic on Tuesday night at Trumbull High School.
The win came in Anthony Hill's first official game as Ridgefield's interim head coach. Hill was elevated from his role as an assistant on Thursday when Tom DiMarzo unexpectedly resigned, citing personal reasons.
"Mentally and emotionally, it's been a tough week," Hill said. "We miss him (DiMarzo) ... he got us here ... but at the same time they (the Ridgefield players) were resilient and fought their way through and got the win."
Hill's defensive curveball also helped. After playing mostly man-t0-man all season, the Tigers switched to a 3-2 zone that befuddled Trumbull. The Eagles committed 23 turnovers, including three in the game's final three minutes.
"They're a really good driving team," Ridgefield junior captain Kate Wagner said about Trumbull. "They'll get in the paint, and we've been having foul trouble. So 3-2 (zone) put in and it worked. We held them to 40 points."
Palmieri, a 5'10" sophomore, had 19 of Trumbull's points but just seven in the second half.
"She's probably the best player in the league," Hill said about Palmieri. "We did a good job on her in the second half. We knew we had to find her and try to keep her from scoring."
Ridgefield's 3-2 zone and the absence of sophomore guard Cassi Barbato (illness) were factors in Trumbull's stagnant offense. But head coach Steve Tobitsch specified another reason for his team's loss.
"We threw the ball away a little against the zone but the real thing that hurt us was they hurt us on the boards," Tobitsch said. "They got a lot of second-chance opportunities and points, and we also didn't get enough scoring opportunities ourselves."
Even so, Trumbull still led most of the game. The Eagles went ahead, 8-6, on Emi Roberto's 3-pointer with just over three minutes left in the first quarter and remained in front until Wagner scored on a drive to give Ridgefield a 36-35 lead with 3:32 left in the game.
Krystina Schueler made two free throws to put Trumbull back ahead, 37-36, and the score stayed there until Katie Flynn's put-back gave the Tigers a 38-37 lead.
Palmieri's 3-pointer was then answered by Stietzel's trey, which ended the scoring, and Koslowski's steal, which ended the game.
"We were confident going into the game," Wagner said. "The whole year has been kind of rocky ... we haven't shown our best potential yet ... but we know what we're capable of doing."
Notes: Trumbull led 13-8 at the end of the first quarter, 20-18 at halftime, and 33-25 through three quarters.
Wagner led Ridgefield with 10 points. Stietzel and Flynn each added eight points and Koslowski had six points. Norah McNeece (five points) and Sabrina Grizzaffi (four points) also scored for the Tigers.
In addition to Palmieri's 19 points, Trumbull got 11 points from Emi Roberto, six points from Meghan Lesko, and four points from Schueler. Palmieri and Roberto each hit three 3-pointers for Trumbull.