RIDGEFIELD — Wilton coach Joel Geriak made it a priority this afternoon to contain James St. Pierre, the electric guard on Ridgefield’s boys basketball team.
It was more than a reasonable strategy: St. Pierre is one of the FCIAC’s three best players, one many would make the first choice to start a team. Executing it is another matter.
St. Pierre still scored 23 points today, battling through the occasional double-team, but the Tigers showed that they are more than just a one-person show. A dominant second quarter set the stage for an impressive 62-44 win, Ridgefield’s third in a row.
“It was awesome. I thought our coaches gave us a great gameplan,” St. Pierre said. “They anticipated them covering me very tight so we added a lot of stuff this week in practice working to get me looks, and when they’re overplaying me all my other teammates will be open. Then on defense we got to know their personnel and it worked really well obviously.”
Chris Knachel was one of the big beneficiaries for Ridgefield. He finished with 14 points and got several easy baskets off feeds from St. Pierre.
Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan has seen a number of teams focus their defenses on St. Pierre. None have been very successful.
“James did a nice job of giving the ball up when he was double-teamed and trusting his teammates,” McClellan said. “A lot of that happened in the first half for wide open shots and guys were able to knock those down. He leads us in scoring in every game but as you can see we have plenty of capable basketball players. He just happens to be our best one so we orient our offense to him, but when people do that we have other people who can step up.”
The Tigers (9-4, 7-3 FCIAC) are building up momentum after a three-game losing streak during the most difficult stretch of their schedule, followed three games later by a road loss at Brien McMahon. Two of the games were decided by two points; one came when Trumbull’s Timmond Williams banked in a 3-point shot at the buzzer.
“We had to play all these heavyweights first,” McClellan said. “For the first time in a while we’re just trying to get into the playoffs, so every win is helpful. We’re just trying to get into a spot where we can get into that playoff and we feel we can compete against anybody.”
Wilton had won six games in a row, eight of its last nine and is the Tigers’ biggest rival, so this was one of their top quality victories on a number of fronts.
The outcome was decided in the second quarter. Ridgefield ended the half with a 15-0 run to turn a one-point game into a 35-19 lead. St. Pierre scored 10 points in the quarter. Wilton was held scoreless for the final 6:39, turned the ball over seven times and was 2 for 11 from the field.
“The second quarter was tough,” Geriak said. “The first quarter our plan was to take away St. Pierre. The kid’s good. We did a good job for the most part and they hit shots. Second quarter we stopped attacking. They got a little more physical and we didn’t respond. That’s basically what happened. They got up on us, we got stagnant and pushed around a little bit and we didn’t react the way I normally see from my team.”
Wilton (11-3, 8-2) got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way and trailed by as many as 24 after an 8-0 fourth-quarter run by the Tigers.
Ryan Biberon scored eight points and Nick Kronenberg and Ryan Schriber scored seven points each for Wilton.
“One of the few times I played Ridgefield with a size advantage and we didn’t use it,” Geriak said. “Or at least we didn’t well. Give them credit. They played good defense all year long, they do a good job and he’s a good coach. They are going to play you tough. That second quarter put the game out of reach.”
Wilton currently has the third-best league record. The Tigers are a game behind. It is debatable how much seeding will matter but Ridgefield is positioning itself to make a run at a possible top three spot.
“We had a really tough schedule at the beginning of the season with Trumbull and Danbury. That was sort of a wakeup call for us,” St. Pierre said. “I think now we’re starting to play a lot better basketball for when the playoffs come. This is a huge win obviously because they’re our rivals but they’re a really good team, a well-coached team. I’m really happy with the way my teammates are playing.”