FAIRFIELD — In a league that is shaping up to have as many as 10 to 12 teams of comparable assets, Ridgefield has one advantage over most others.
“We have eight seniors and all of us have experience so we already know how to maintain a lead,” said Luke McGarrity, one of the Tigers’ polished leaders.
The lead McGarrity was referring to was a 31-28 advantage tonight at Fairfield Ludlowe to start the fourth quarter. The Falcons would get no closer. A 7-1 run helped Ridgefield open up their biggest advantage, 11 points, and they held on for an impressive 52-43 win.
“I thought we played really well down the stretch, like a veteran group should,” Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said. “Just really happy to get an FCIAC road win against who I think, along with Staples, is the hottest team in the FCIAC. They have some really good wins on their ledger already.”
So do the Tigers. With the Wreckers losing to Trumbull, they are the last remaining unbeaten team in league play, just over two weeks in. Ridgefield is 7-1 over all and 5-0 in the FCIAC.
“Our senior leadership is really carrying us right now,” McClellan said. “These guys love these situations. We are more effective and efficient and poised in this game than we are when they determine ahead of time that a team is a little lesser than them. We’re trying to get rid of that. I’m super proud of them.”
James Rush led a balanced attack with 14 points for Ridgefield. Chris Knachel added 13 and McGarrity and Johnny Briody finished with eight apiece.
A week earlier the Tigers almost lost a late lead but held on against Trumbull. Tonight they made eight of their final 11 shots from the foul line and played error-free.
“Last Friday night we made mental mistakes down the stretch and we worked on that in practice all week,” McGarrity said. “We knew this was going to be a close game, a tough matchup and we executed down the stretch and got a good win.”
Ludlowe (7-2, 3-2) got off to a good start, but the Tigers opened the second quarter with an 11-0 run and withstood a comeback that saw the Falcons twice tie the game in the third quarter, the second at 28-28 on Patrick Kilbride’s drive in the final minute.
McGarrity answered with a 3-point shot and the Tigers pulled away.
Rowan Keesser led Ludlowe with 16 points and Patrick Kilbride added 11.
Ludlowe made three 3-point shots, seven fewer than in Tuesday’s win over Trinity Catholic.
“I credit Ridgefield. They certainly made it difficult for us to some open looks,” Ludlowe coach John Dailey said. “Beyond the 3s we missed a million foul shots, we missed bunnies around the rim and that’s a little uncharacteristic for us. If we make a few more layups and we make a few foul shots and it’s really a ballgame.”
The Falcons were just four for 10 from the foul line.
Dailey coached despite the passing of his mother this morning.
“I thought we played good defense but a couple of possessions where we didn’t defend, they made us pay,” Dailey said. “They spread you out and they’re patient until you break down and you make a mistake and you get beat on a backdoor. That’s the difference in the game. It was a good game.”
The Tigers are piling up wins against likely playoff teams. They are setting up valuable tiebreaking advantages…if they don’t eventually distance themselves from the field.
“I think most of the good teams that we play are on the road so that’s the hard part,” McClellan said. “We’re not running away from anybody but we’re not behind the eight ball. Getting a little bit better and getting healthy is a huge goal for us.”