With their team ahead by 21 points in the fourth quarter, Ridgefield fans had a question for their Wilton counterparts in the bleachers across the court.
“Why so quiet?” chanted the Ridgefield student section several times in unison.
Fittingly, the Wilton fans had no response — by that point it was clear their team had no answers for how to contain James St. Pierre and the Ridgefield offense.
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Despite being double-teamed whenever he got the ball, St. Pierre scored 23 points to lead the Tigers past Wilton, 62-44, on Friday afternoon at a packed Ridgefield High gym. Ten of St. Pierre’s points came in the second quarter, when Ridgefield outscored the Warriors, 17-5, to open a 35-19 halftime lead.
“St. Pierre’s, in my opinion, the best player in the league,” said Wilton coach Joel Geriak, whose team is now 11-3 overall and 8-2 in the FCIAC. “We tried to deny him as best as we can, which is not easy to do … early on it worked but other kids hit their shots for them and then St. Pierre got hot in the second quarter.”
“I thought everyone that got in played really well on the defensive end, and I thought we shared the ball on the offensive end enough to build a big lead,” Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said. “I knew they would try to take St. Pierre out of the game, but he made some good reads, some kids got him the ball, and then some other kids were able to do that, too … that’s a product of us having four, sometimes five, kids out there who can handle the ball.
“He (St. Pierre) leads us in scoring every game, but as you can see we have plenty of capable basketball players,” McClellan added. “He just happens to be our best one so we orient our offense to him, but when people do that (focus on St. Pierre) we’ve been able to have other people step up.”
Wilton’s deficit rose to 20 points early in the third quarter before the visitors went on a 9-2 run to get within 42-29 on Nick Kronenberg’s 3-pointer. But the Warriors’ flickering pulse soon flatlined: Cameron Andry’s trey was followed by Matt DeLuca’s put-back basket as Ridgefield (9-4, 7-3) scored seven of the next 11 points to go ahead 49-33 entering the final period.
Any remaining intrigue dissipated when the Tigers put together a 10-2 run to take a 59-35 lead with 4:39 left in the game.
“Our tempo wasn’t that great … their defense had a lot to do with that … and we didn’t rebound at all,” Geriak said. “They hit their shots and played more poised in the big environment … our kids are still learning how to do that.”
St. Pierre was held to four points in the first quarter, which ended with Ridgefield ahead 18-14 following Zayvion Eusebe’s traditional 3-point play for Wilton with 28.7 seconds left.
Eusebe hit a 3-pointer to further trim Ridgefield’s lead to 18-17 before St. Pierre unleashed his repertoire on the Warriors. St. Pierre scored on a one-handed runner; finished a spin move with a basket inside; and Euro-stepped his way to a layup. Those buckets were augmented by Johnny Briody’s 3-pointer and Chris Knachel’s pair of layups on sweet passes from Matt Misurelli.
“The coaches are always telling me to let my game come to me and today I thought I did that pretty well,” St. Pierre said. “They were covering me really tight at the start of the game and my teammates did a really good job. In the second and third quarter things started to open up and my teammates were getting me shots and I was looking to distribute to them, so it worked out really well.”
NOTES: Geriak was called for a technical foul following an unusual incident midway through the fourth quarter. A Wilton player was called for a foul and appeared to push the ball back into a referee. The referee responded by bouncing the ball off the Wilton player and then giving Geriak a technical when he came out on the court to object to the referee’s actions.
Ridgefield played without starting center Derek Szpakowski, a 6-foot-3 junior, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken leg suffered against Darien last week.
Ridgefield 62, Wilton 44
Wilton 14 5 14 11 – 44
Ridgefield 18 17 14 13 – 62
Wilton: Nick Kronenberg 3 0-0 7; Ryan Schriber 2 3-7 7; Andrew Smith 1 0-0 3; Kyle Hyzy 2 0-0 4; Ryan Biberon 2 4-4 8; Tucker Walden 2 0-0 4; Zayvion Eusebe 2 1-1 6; John Walsh 1 0-0 2; Matt Murphy 1 0-0 3.
Ridgefield: James St. Pierre 9 4-6 23; Chris Knachel 4 6-11 14; Matt DeLuca 2 0-0 4; Matt Misurelli 3 0-0 7; Johnny Briody 2 0-0 6; Luke McGarrity 1 0-0 3; Cameron Andry 2 0-0 5.