Girls basketball: Ridgefield dominates in the paint, routs Warriors

The Ridgefield Tigers came into the Zeoli Fieldhouse on Wednesday night and made it look like they owned the boards, as they outrebounded the Wilton girls basketball team en route to a 57-39 win.

Warrior turnovers didn’t help their cause either. The Tigers used their second-chance baskets and defensive rebounds to maintain a double-digit lead over the Warriors from the second period to the end of the contest.

“After the good start I think the team looked up at the scoreboard and saw they were ahead and got a little nervous,” stated Wilton head coach Rob Coloney. “There were times when we played well tonight, but we didn’t play 32 minutes of basketball and you can’t do that against a team as good as Ridgefield and expect to win. When we showed good composure and organized play, we had good results. This team works too hard to not come out and play a complete game. The keys to our loss tonight were that we didn’t shoot the ball well and they totally outrebounded us.”

Wilton got out to a 9-7 lead with under three minutes remaining in the first quarter, as the Warriors displayed good rotation on defense, causing the Tigers to work for every shot. Three of Ridgefield’s first seven points came from the foul line.

When Meaghan O’Hara hit two free throws with 1:34 left in the period to tie the game at 9-9, it started an 8-0 for Ridgefield, which closed out the quarter with a 15-9 lead.

Two quick buckets by Caroline Curnal to start the second quarter put the Tigers up 19-9. A basket by Meaghan Downey stopped the Tigers run at 12. But Ridgefield outscored the Warriors 9-1 to increase the lead to 16 points at 28-12. Several Ridgefield players scored baskets from close range, as the Tigers owned the paint and showed a dominant inside game.

The Warriors showed a little life and made a 7-0 run to finish the first half down 28-19. A 3-pointer from Emily Tuin and two baskets from Elizabeth Breslin accounted for the Warriors' points.

In the third quarter the game looked like a chess match, with the Warriors having chances to cut into the Tigers lead but failing to capitalize. Wilton misfired on several easy baskets and had more turnover than points in the period, as the Ridgefield lead grew to as much as 20 points in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

Wilton committed eight turnovers in the period, while only scoring five points. Ridgefield led 43-24 after three.

The Warriors came out in the final quarter and looked to make it a game with an 8-2 run to get within 13 points. A basket by Breslin and back-to-back 3-pointers by Caroline Sweeny and Claire Gulbin put the score at 45-32, but the Tigers kept getting the ball down low and closed out the Warriors for the 57-39 win.

Although the game seemed to have been decided long before the final buzzer, one Warrior kept battling and playing her heart out — co-captain Meaghan Downey. Each night Downey is probably the shortest player on the floor, but she can be seen battling for rebounds and looking to tie up her opponent and force jump balls, often ending up on the floor in the process. And Wednesday’s game was no different.

“We started off with good energy and we believed in ourselves to come away with a win. But we need to trust each other as a team and play hard. We knew this was going to be a tough battle tonight. Now we need to get our heads straight, regroup and get ready for the next game,” said Downey.

Breslin led Wilton with eight points, followed by Gulbin with six points, and Sweeny and Lauren Robertson chipped in with five points each.

The loss drops the Warriors record to 8-6 overall and 6-5 in the conference.

Ridgefield (13-1 overall, 11-1 in the conference) was led by Curnal with 16 points and Elizabeth Middlebrook with 15 points.