RIDGEFIELD — The FCIAC basketball tournament has a déjà vu feel to it as both the Ridgefield boys and girls teams will get a chance to defend their titles.
The girls team followed up the boys’ semifinal win with a 64-51 victory of its own on Wednesday over St. Joseph.
Last season, Ridgefield became the first FCIAC program to produce a boys and girls winner in the same year since Trinity Catholic in 2008, but no school has done it two seasons in a row.
Ridgefield will take on No. 3 Trumbull in the FCIAC final on Saturday night, a day after the Ridgefield boys take on Westhill.
The top-seeded Tigers are undefeated this season, having rolled to the FCIAC final despite losing leading scorer Katie Flynn.
Ridgefield girls basketball advances to the FCIAC final after taking down St. Joseph 64-51 #ctgb
Ridgefield will look to defend its FCIAC Title against Trumbull on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/khUxAZyZ23
— Will Aldam (@AldamWill) March 25, 2021
“It was a great team effort, it stinks to lose any players that you battle with all year,” Ridgefield coach Rob Coloney said. “Especially considering all the adversity that all teams including us had to overcome. I am super proud of the team that we have here.”
With Flynn out, senior co-captain Kelly Chittenden stepped up with a game-high 21 points, 10 coming in the final quarter.
“That is what athletes with experience do,” Coloney said. “They step up and Kelly (Chittenden) is no stranger to the bright lights. She’s not only another coach on the floor, but is such a calming presence. When we need her most she seems to rise to the occasion, it was no surprise to me.”
Chittenden was 10-of-12 from the free-throw line in the final quarter, helping to maintain at least a five-point gap over No. 5 St. Joseph throughout.
“I knew I had to go to the line,” Chittenden said. “I see myself as a good free-throw shooter so when it came down to it, I knew I would have to take over that responsibility.”
Senior co-captain Cali Stietzel (12), junior guard Siovhan Moroney (11), and sophomore Kaya Weiskopf (10) all contributed double digit points for the Tigers.
“It is really rare to be around a group that loves each other as much as this group does,” Coloney said. “To be able to get back to the championship for the second year in a row is something I am so proud of them for.”
St. Joseph was led by junior guard Kayleigh Carson with 17 points and junior forward Dennaye Hinds with 10.
It was a battle throughout with Ridgefield leading by just five in the final two minutes of the game.
“Being in the playoffs comes with a lot of stress and pressure,” Chittenden said. “Playing as a team last year, we understood that we had to work together. We learned to push out all the fans and focus on what is happening on the floor and that helped us today.”
The Tigers were unfazed throughout, maintaining a lead throughout the second half and putting pressure on St. Joseph.
“Last year’s tournament experience taught us to take every opponent seriously,” Coloney said. “We were able to win the tournament as a seven seed, so no matter who comes in here we respect that opponent. I think that helps us in our preparation and game planning.”
The bond and respect between athletes is something special in Coloney’s eyes.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for our boy’s program,” Coloney said. “The way that they show out for us and the way we show out for the boys, I think the camaraderie in our groups individually and as a whole is really special. It’s something that you don’t get in many communities, it’s definitely the first time I have experienced anything like it. We do things together and I think that’s a large reason both programs are having success right now.”
Ridgefield could make FCIAC history this weekend, becoming the first program to sweep the FCIAC for both boys and girls basketball in consecutive seasons, but for now the focus is preparation.
“We are just going to get to practice tomorrow and get ready for Trumbull,” Coloney said. “Trumbull is a tremendous team, incredibly well coached and we will have our hands full.”