The Ridgefield boys basketball team has never won an FCIAC championship. In fact, prior to Saturday's tournament opener against Stamford, sixth-year head coach and athletic director Carl Charles couldn't even remember the last time the Tigers had even reached the league semifinals.
Well, chances are Charles and his young charges won't be forgetting about their latest victory anytime soon.
Third-seeded Ridgefield, which was knocked out by Stamford in the quarterfinals last year and then lost the regular-season showdown to the Black Knights by double digits less than a month ago, earned some long-awaited retribution with a 50-46 win in the first game of the FCIAC tournament at Ludlowe High School Saturday afternoon.
After a hotly-contested first three quarters, the Tigers (16-5) led by as many as 13 in the fourth before the gritty Black Knights (12-9) caught fire from the outside and cut it to three with 59 seconds left.
Pressure defense by Stamford caused a turnover, and the Black Knights had the ball with a chance to tie, but senior Shawn Padilla (10 points, five rebounds) was called for an illegal screen, giving possession back to the Tigers. Junior Jeff Racy (12 points) would connect on four free throws in the final 17 seconds as Ridgefield held on.
Ridgefield will play second-seeded Trinity Catholic in the semifinal on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Warde High School.
"I thought we had it under control but (Jim Moriarty's) teams never quite," Charles said. "It was a typical Ridgefield-Stamford game. The last few have been wars, so it was finally nice to come out on top. This means a lot for our program."
Junior 6-foot-6 forward Kurt Steidl had a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers, who held the Black Knights to 15 of 38 shooting from the field.
"I knew he was a special player when I saw him as freshman," Charles said of Steidl. "He's our catalyst. He shoots, he rebounds, he handles the ball. He's a complete player."
This will be the first time in four years the FCIAC semifinals won't include Stamford. But not for a lack effort.
"All the credit goes to them," Moriarty said. "They boxed out well, hit free throws and this time we didn't knock down the open shots. But I can't be more proud of our guys. I think we just ran out of time."
Stamford's top offensive weapon, senior Barry Boderick, shook off a slow start to finish with 12 points -- including three 3-pointers in the final 1:36.
The Black Knights also got a spark from senior Quaisean Crowe, who came off the bench to hit two treys en route to nine points, while Bryan Boderick had six.
Freshman Patrick Racy added eight points for Ridgefield, which went on a 16-3 run from the midway points of the third to fourth quarters.