I published my FCIAC girls basketball preview just before 1 last Friday afternoon.
I predicted Trumbull would defeat Fairfield Ludlowe in the championship game, with Ridgefield and Danbury losing in the semifinals.
Sometime likely before the start or just at the end of practice that day, I can imagine Ridgefield coach Rob Coloney gathering his players.
“Did you see The Ruden Report?” is the way I envision Coloney’s mind-game session. “He said we stink.” OK, maybe a slight exaggeration.
It could have been my pick, GameTime’s or one from anyone else that covers FCIAC girls basketball. Picking a team to reach the Final Four is hardly insulting. But when you are trying to guide your team to a championship — and believe it has the goods to reach that goal — you turn it into disparagement.
Coloney and a couple of his players smiled last night, after they opened the season with a 47-40 win over Trumbull, when I brought up the way he manufactures motivation.
“I love my kids,” Coloney said. “I’m really fortunate to be in a situation where I can get a lot out of them in different ways. If that’s taking what I find on the internet and sharing it with them I’m certainly going to do that.”
Coloney, who previously coached at Wilton, was the perfect hire for Ridgefield when the job opened up two springs ago, right after he moved back to town after a year away. He does things the right way. I respect how much he cares about his players, and in the right order, as girls first and athletes second. And I am amused at the different ways he finds to incite his team.
I suspect Coloney is going to be challenged finding ways over the next six weeks to spur his players. Instead, it will be a steady diet of Xs and Os because the Tigers are good, and in a confident but not cocky way I think his players know it. Or they at least know with hard work they can be repeat-good.
Katie Flynn scored 19 points to lead Ridgefield against Trumbull. She had a strong sophomore year but was hindered by injuries early last season and really did not find her groove until before the playoffs. Flynn is one of the league’s best players.
Cali Stietzel came on in the postseason a year ago and, along with guard Kelly Chittenden, will benefit from the experience. There are a number of players on the bench who will contribute in different ways.
And then there is Faith Arnold, a three-sport star who opted not to play basketball last season to focus on lacrosse. She is back and is an impact addition. She is a tremendous athlete and Coloney kept her on the floor in the fourth quarter last night when the Tigers were attempting to preserve the lead. It will be interesting to see whether Coloney keeps Arnold on the bench to provide a spark or moves her into a starting spot.
“Those unexpected things,” Coloney said about Arnold’s return. “I said I don’t know anything about Faith’s basketball career, can we try and place her here, can we try and move her here, how’s she going to act here, and I thought she did a lot of nice things.”
Trumbull was rusty last night — Ridgefield had a lot to do with that. If the teams meet again, the Tigers will surely see a different team.
By that time, Coloney may have an alternative concern than he did last week: getting that bull’s-eye off of his team.