STAMFORD — On a day when its play wavered, the Ridgefield basketball team remained poised despite a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter today at Trinity Catholic.
And in a performance that was a microcosm of his team’s, Brenden McNamara stayed relentless after a slow start.
McNamara’s short jump shot with five seconds left in overtime lifted the Tigers to a dramatic 64-63 road victory against the Crusaders, the defending Class S champions and a preseason favorite in the FCIAC.
“That inbounds play at the end we drew up, they executed it perfectly, and McNamara, who struggled a little bit at times, did what McNamara does in big spots,” Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said.
McNamara, coming off a 29-point outing three days earlier in a win at Stamford, was cold early. Some of it was due to the defense of the Crusaders’ Dutreil Contavio, some just not getting shots to fall.
McNamara had 3 points at halftime but never stopped attacking the basket.
“It’s frustrating but you have to keep going,” McNamara said. “Shooters shoot. I know eventually they’re going to fall. I’ll get my points. All I care about is getting the dubs.”
McNamara finished with 18 points. He made two straight jumpers in the third quarter after Dutreil briefly left the game with a hand injury and, as is often the case, used his aggressive play in the paint to get to the foul line.
“That’s who he is,” McClellan said. “He’s always going to play hard. He’s an emotional kid, he’s going to keep playing and I think the other kids see that. That’s what good players do when their shots aren’t falling. They get to the free throw line a lot and that’s what he did.”
Trinity coach Mike Walsh lamented after the game not putting two defenders on McNamara on the decisive inbounds play. McNamara said he was expecting it.
“We drew up a good play, I thought they were coming to double team me and my teammate Chris (Knachel) set a good screen for me and I was able to get open and just drove and tried to muscle it up,” McNamara said. “My shots weren’t falling but I just stuck with it. We battled all night and in the end we came up with the win.”
The Tigers (4-2, 3-0 FCIAC) got a number of strong performances that speaks to their growing balance.
Alex Price was integral to the comeback, making three 3-point shots in the fourth quarter and another in overtime to finish with a team-high 19 points.
“He didn’t have his best game against Stamford and I just told him to come back and keep shooting,” McNamara said. “I trust him. I’ve been playing with him since 6th grade and I know he can shoot and he put that on display today.”
And James St.Pierre ended up with 18 points before fouling out in overtime.
Jackson Mitchell finished with just 4 points, but it was his basket with 1.1 seconds left in regulation that completed the comeback and forced overtime.
“We have a lot of skill on our team and when one person isn’t able to play or is in foul trouble, or if another person doesn’t have it going, we should have enough to find opportunities for others,” McClellan said.
It was a frustrating loss for the Crusaders (3-3, 2-1), who played well early but were hurt by turnovers down the stretch. They still had a nine-point lead with just over three minutes left in regulation before Ridgefield scored seven straight points. After a foul shot by the Crusaders’ Stephon McGill, Price hit a 3-point shot with 1:02 remaining to tie the game.
Dimitry Moise answered with a 3-point shot before the Tigers evened the score in the last 30 seconds.
“We have to make good decisions on offense,” Walsh said. “That’s what it really came down to. When we made good decisions we got out to the lead. “I just don’t think we executed well on offense and especially on out of bounds plays. We made some poor decisions at times but those are things you have to learn to get better.”
Moise, who makes the Crusaders much more dangerous when he is on, finished with 26 points, including five 3-pointers. Cameron Blake added 10. Dutreil was held to 8.
“If we had won this game by one point we would have thought highly of ourselves and maybe we wouldn’t have learned anything,” Walsh said. “We will definitely learn from this because we will remember this.”
Ridgefield, in one of its most difficult stretches, returns home Tuesday to play another contender, unbeaten Danbury.
“To come and beat what I think is the most talented team in the league, in their gym, it’s a huge win, it’s a confidence builder, though I have a lot of people in there that don’t need help with confidence,” McClellan said as he nodded toward his locker room.