RIDGEFIELD — It didn’t take the Ridgefield boys basketball team very long to find bulletin-board material for the season.
Players were chanting “We’re not sleepers” heading into the locker room following tonight’s emphatic 71-46 home win over Stamford.
The Black Knights were picked to finish in the top three by many in the preseason. The Tigers were not very far behind, but apparently the perceived slight was enough to rile them up. Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan certainly didn’t mind.
“I thought our boys came out with a little chip on their shoulders,” McClellan said. “It seemed like a lot of people had talked about Stamford. They seemed to think that and I wasn’t going to argue with them. We were ready to play.”
Trailing, 11-9, midway through the opening quarter, Ridgefield (3-0) broke the game open with a 23-4 run, ending it with 11 unanswered points for a 32-19 halftime lead. Stamford (1-2) never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
James St. Pierre finished with 31 points to lead the Tigers. He admitted afterward nothing short of being picked as the favorite would have proved satisfactory to him or his teammates.
“Every year we believe in ourselves the most,” St. Pierre said. “We just want to prove ourselves.”
They are off to a good start. Despite lacking the inside presence of recent years, the Tigers’ guard-oriented attack was efficient, with ball movement the key.
“It definitely clears out the paint for some more drives,” St. Pierre said. “This year we kind of implemented a system where we are trying to get in the paint and then kick out. We’ve got a lot of shooters so I am always looking to make that extra pass and find that open shot.”
St. Pierre was the outside to Brenden McNamara’s inside a year ago, when Ridgefield won the FCIAC regular-season title. McNamara has graduated, while center Jackson Mitchell, who will play football next year at UConn, opted not to return.
“We have to play a little more perimeter oriented,” McClellan said. “It was nice to have B-Mac to throw into the post and go get us a basket or get people in foul trouble. We have some other guys we throw in there and James is off to a really good start scoring and defending. And everyone pitches in. We have a bunch of kids working really hard and really playing their roles.”
Luke McGarrity added 14 points for Ridgefield, while Matt DeLuca finished with eight rebounds, Matt Misurelli had six assists and Chris Knachel finished with six rebounds and four assists.
One constant was the defense. The Tigers contested every shot and held Stamford to just 1 of 15 shooting during the decisive second quarter.
“The boys followed the gameplan really well,” McClellan said. “I thought the man to man defense worked really well and made them work for their shots. They have three guards that score so easily. The whole team functioned as a unit and it has worked out really well these first three games.”
Stamford’s trio of Jay Jaudon, Josh Thervil and Jaden Bell were held to a combined 24 points, with Jaudon finishing with a team-high 14.
“We have to figure out who we are, what we want to be,” Stamford coach Zach Smith said. “Ridgefield is very good but we have to worry about what’s going on in this locker room.”
Stamford was just four of 18 from the foul line and struggled this week defensively in two losses. Perhaps most upsetting to Smith were two fourth-quarter technical fouls just over one minute apart. St. Pierre cashed them into eight straight free throws.
We couldn’t score in the second quarter, we couldn’t get back in the game and then we lost our cool,” Smith said.
While the Black Knights will look to regroup, Ridgefield is setting itself up to be the cause for the chips on the shoulders of future opponents.
“We feel really good about how deep our program has become and that’s what our signature is, everyone pitching in,” McClellan said.