STAMFORD — There was a lot to like about Ridgefield in tonight’s 79-60 win over Stamford. The obvious starting point was Brenden McNamara, who scored 16 of his 29 points in the opening quarter to help forge a lead that would not be relinquished, made shots beyond the 3-point arc and in the paint, and finished with 16 rebounds.
Then there was James St. Pierre, the underrated guard who made all four of his 3-point shots in the second half and contributed 22 points.
Perhaps most consequential for the defending FCIAC champion’s long-term goals was the display of depth. The Tigers hardly looked like a team that was missing three starters.
“I’m just really happy that some kids had an opportunity to step up, played within their skill set, shared the ball and ran really good offense and played good enough defense,” Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said. “We’ve got to get a little bit better. It’s hard when you get that 20-point lead and they’ve got good players. We have to clean up some of the defensive stuff but I loved our ball movement. There’s so much skill on this team.”
Starting a difficult three-game stretch, the Tigers (3-2, 2-0 FCIAC) scored the first seven points and, after the Black Knights drew within two, went on a 14-0 run. They never trailed and handled a stretch in the second quarter when McNamara had to sit with two fouls.
Ridgefield was without point guard Luke McGarrity, Ryan Malley and Jackson Mitchell, who provides the muscle in the paint.
“When we get all those guys back, we always feel we are better in February than we are now and we feel like we are a good team now,” McClellan said. “So we get everybody healthy I think we can be a really good team.”
St. Pierre is one of the players Ridgefield needs to step up in an increased role. So far he has been delivering.
“He’s a combo guard for us,” McClellan said. “He handles the ball really well, he’s really worked on his game, playing with a ton of confidence right now and the team really believes in him. James has really come into his own just because of the opportunity. He’s always been good enough but he’s matured, he plays with a huge chip on his shoulder, really competitive, so the competitiveness of our whole team is led by McNamara and St. Pierre.”
St. Pierre made three 3-pointers in a span of 2:15 in the third quarter that helped Ridgefield build its biggest lead, 21 points. He opened up space for himself because of his ability to penetrate and McNamara’s presence in the middle.
“I think I was going out and just executing the game plan,” St. Pierre said. “Obviously I got a (few) more shots today but our team has been doing the same thing we’ve been doing all year. Luckily my teammates were able to get me open and get me in spots where I could help the team.”
St. Pierre also benefits from the Tigers’ fundamental soundness, particularly with ball movement.
“We practice that a lot. One of our team mantras is one more,” said St. Pierre, referring to making the extra pass. “We really like to spread the ball around and get open looks and we like to play unselfishly like that. I thrive off that because I’ll get open a lot.”
Lovell Staton led Stamford (3-2, 1-1) with 18 points. Jelani Jackson added 13 and Tevin St. John finished with 9.
But the Black Knights never recovered from the slow start and lost the chance to make an impression against one of the FCIAC’s contending teams.
“Everything tonight, defense, offense, attitude,” Stamford coach Zach Smith said, listing the areas that displeased him. “If we don’t have the right attitude we won’t be able to do anything. We obviously need to improve our defense. Our defense has been good in some games and bad in others.”
The Tigers return to Stamford Friday night to play Trinity Catholic, then host Danbury.
“They run their offense very well,” Smith said about Ridgefield. “They run it with pace, which we’d like to do.”