RIDGEFIELD — A homecourt advantage was not enough for the Ridgefield girls basketball team for tonight’s game against unbeaten Stamford. The Tigers (3-3) stayed close, but the Black Knights relied on their defense and pulled away late for a 49-42 win to improve to 6-0.
“Ridgefield was a crucial test against our defense and how we could hold up as a team of all ages,” Stamford coach Diane Burns stated. “They finally focused on the defensive end and let the offensive end flow. That was an important change for us, our fourth quarter energy needs to be consistent throughout the game.”
The Knights opened with a tenacious full-court press, effectively rattling the Tigers to the point of forced turnovers. After turning the ball over three times in four minutes, the Knights appeared to settle in with a 7-2 lead. They got steady play across the court from Jessica Nelson.
Ridgefield began tying together passes, with Katie Flynn setting up her teammates. The Tigers had drawn to within a point but a 3-pointer from Madison Lockery to end the first quarter gave Stamford a 15-11 lead.
With another three from Lockery to start the second quarter, Stamford seemed on the verge of breaking the game open. Ridgefield’s response, however, came from Ridgefield’s Cameron McClellan (7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist), who answered with a three-pointer. McClellan’s offensive vigor soon became backed on the defensive end.
Forcing a turnover from Stamford’s Megan Landsiedel (11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals), Flynn’s scoring from the field and foul line gave Ridgefield a 20-18 lead.
Ridgefield’s tightened defense held Stamford scoreless for four minutes. Kelly Chittenden, Kate Wagner and Cali Stietzel forced turnovers until Stamford’s Emily Graham evened the game at 24-24.
“These girls had fun tonight,” said Ridgefield head coach Rob Coloney. “Stamford’s the fifth-best team in the state, but as soon as we held on after those banked threes we tightened up the screws and played our best game.”
In the third quarter one thing became clear: Ridgefield’s comeback was not a fluke. Holding the Knights scoreless for six and a half minutes, it took two free throws from Nelson to end a run that gave Ridgefield a 30-24 lead.
Ridgefield’s 31-28 advantage in the fourth quarter was soon erased by Stamford as a 3-pointer from Landsiedel and five three throws from Graham put Stamford back into the lead. Stamford fell back into full-court pressure, taking a 38-34 lead.
Flynn, who had a team-high 18 points to go with five rebounds and three assists, scored nine fourth-quarter points and helped Ridgefield tie the game at 38-38.
It was Nelson who finally put the game away, hitting her third 3-pointer and stopping a shot by Wagner to get the ball back for Stamford. Nelson, who finished with 15 points, added a pair of free throws as the Black Knights pulled away at the end.
“We didn’t come in expecting to win tonight — we came in there to work hard and be ready to fight,” Nelson said. “We knew we had to stay locked in as a unit rather than individuals.”