RIDGEFIELD — Chris Longo hasn’t been as big a factor offensively for the Ridgefield boys basketball team this winter compared to a year ago, in large part because he doesn’t have to be.
The Tigers can now get away with Longo making less noticeable contributions, at least to those who gain insight solely through box scores.
But that doesn’t mean Longo cannot still take over games, and he offered a reminder tonight against Ridgefield’s biggest rival. Longo, who left the game after picking up his third foul in the second period, finished with 10 points — all in the final quarter and 8 of them in succession in the last two minutes — to put the finishing touches on a 69-59 win over Wilton before a near-sellout crowd comprised mostly of energetic students from both schools.
“I got in early foul trouble, which was tough because I couldn’t get in the rhythm of the game,” Longo said. “Once we got toward the end it was all about feeding Nicky, and once everyone crowded around him I got some looks.”
Longo was referring to Nick Laudati, the 6-7 center who the Warriors, lacking size, had no answer for. Laudati scored 18 points and altered the game at both ends of the court.
“We absolutely needed to push the ball down low,” Laudati said. “It doesn’t only open things up for our shooters but we can get easy buckets against a smaller team like Wilton, which can kill you with the 3.”
The Tigers also welcomed the return of Brenden McNamara, the versatile 6-5 forward who broke a non-weight-bearing bone in his foot that sidelined him for six games. McNamara, in limited time, scored 10 points. Six came in the fourth quarter, as Ridgefield maintained a slim lead. His biggest contribution might have been the emotional lift for his teammates.
“This game was huge to get, especially with Brenden at 50 percent,” Longo said. “Now that he is going to be 100 percent it shows the damage we can do.”
Ridgefield went 3-3 without McNamara but have now won three in a row. At 9-5 over all and 6-4 in the league, the Tigers have positioned themselves back in the race.
“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but we don’t get into an excuse game, we laid a couple of eggs and now we have to fight back just to get into the tournament and that’s what we’re going to try and do,” Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said.
Wilton (10-2, 7-2) suffered its second straight loss and has struggled since injuries to Jack Williams and Nick Kronenberg. Williams strained his ACL last week against Darien and Warriors coach Joel Geriak said he is week to week. Kronenberg hurt his back in a fall in the same game and played sparingly tonight.
“It’s a game as a coach I shouldn’t have to get them fired up for,” Geriak said. “We were relaxed, which I was very happy with, but for the last three games we are coming out slow and I don’t know why. I’m trying to fix that. Hopefully you get pissed off and get ready for the next game, which luckily is tomorrow. “We’ve got to get healthy.”
Kyle Maatallah scored 18 points to lead the Warriors. Drew Connolly added 12 points and Nick Kronenberg finished with 10.
The Warriors, who have flourished in large part because of their perimeter shooting and depth, have suddenly looked vulnerable since their win over Fairfield Warde.
The Tigers on the other hand seems to be getting expanded contributions. They played with a lead most of the night though could never break away. James St. Pierre hit four 3-pointers in the first half to put Ridgefield in that position.
In the end, it was Longo that carried the Tigers home.
“Chris has been great for us,” McClellan said. “He has not scored the points that he did last year but he does a lot of other things for us. He rebounds for us, he runs for us, he guards one of the better players on the other team for us. Without Chris we couldn’t do what we did tonight.”