With B-Mac back, Ridgefield downs Wilton, 69-59

First, the Ridgefield High boys basketball team got its leading scorer, junior Brenden McNamara, back much sooner than expected. Then, the Tigers got their biggest win so far this season.
Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Ridgefield knocked off arch-rival Wilton, 69-59, on Tuesday night. It was just the second loss this season for the Warriors, who are now 12-2.
Except for one moment midway through the second quarter, Ridgefield (9-5 overall, 6-4 FCIAC) led throughout the game. Just never by too much. The Tigers were ahead, 35-30, at halftime and 45-41 at the end of three quarters, and held a two-point lead midway through the final period.
But Ridgefield then closed the game on a 14-8 run to finally put away Wilton, which was without one of its top players, injured senior guard Jack Williams.
"That was our team," said Ridgefield head coach Andrew McClellan. "When we show up and play and play like that, we're a formidable team. Lots of execution, lots of toughness. Just a real good effort by us."
Wilton pulled within 53-51 on Kyle Maatallah's jumper from just inside the three-point line with four minutes to play. It was the closest Wilton had gotten to Ridgefield since trailing 33-30 in the final 40 seconds of the first half.
McNamara, who was initially expected to miss at least the rest of the regular season with a foot injury, then nailed a three-pointer from the left elbow right in front of Ridgefield's bench. That pumped up the home fans and gave the Tigers a 56-51 lead with 3:30 left.
Wilton's Drew Connolly hit a jumper from just above the foul line, but McNamara answered with a nice post-move for a basket. Fouled on the play, McNamara sank the free throw to put Ridgefield back out in front by six, 59-53, with 2:46 remaining.
On Wilton's next possession, Ridgefield point guard Zach Esemplare stole the ball and passed it up the court to Chris Longo, who went up for a dunk but he was fouled. Longo hit both free throws to make the score 61-53 with 2:18 remaining.
Scott Cunningham drained a three-pointer to get the Warriors within 61-56 with two minutes left. After both teams committed turnovers, Esemplare found Longo cutting to the hoop for a wide-open layup to make it 63-56 with 1:10 left.
After hitting another three-pointer, Wilton intentionally fouled Longo with 38 seconds left. Longo converted both free throws and then added a layup for a 67-59 Ridgefield advantage. With 12 seconds left, Esemplare was fouled and made both free throws to complete the scoring.
Senior center Nick Laudati paced the Tigers with 18 points. Sophomore guard James St. Pierre added 12 points on four three-pointers (all in the first half). McNamara and Longo each finished with 10 points, while Joe Newborn had six points and Alex Price five points. Esemplare and Luke McGarrity rounded out the scoring with four points apiece.
Maatallah led Wilton with 18 points. Connolly contributed 12 points and Nick Cronenberg had 10 points.
Press Sports Reporter Rich Kaufman contributed to this story.