New Canaan eliminated by Ridgefield in FCIAC semi-finals
BRIDGEPORT -- The No. 3 seed New Canaan Rams (16-6) fell to the No. 2 seed Ridgefield Tigers (18-4) 51-33 in the semi-finals of the FCIAC tournament at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Tuesday night. Ridgefield has advanced to the finals and will play the winner of the on-going St. Joseph vs. Trumbull semi-final game.
Ridgefield used its exceptional team speed to pull away from New Canaan in the second half. The Tigers were particularly dominant in the third quarter, in which they permitted just three points by the Rams.
"Our defense wasn't where it needs to be," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "When we play tough defense, usually our offense flows, but tonight our defense was horrendous and I saw things that we haven't done in weeks or months. It put us in a position where we couldn't do anything."
New Canaan enjoyed its only lead of the game at 10-9 about midway through the first quarter after a free throw by Sarah Mannelly. Mannelly would go on to score a game-high 19 points, although 17 came in the first half.
"She had a huge first half," Ridgefield coach Katie Smith said. "We knew they had a lot of good players. We kept doing what we were doing before, we just did it better."
A buzzer beating layup from Ridgefield's Kathryn Cholko made the score 27-21 at halftime and closed out a brief 4-0 run by the Tigers.
"Our captains do a great job of talking about how the second half is 0-0," Smith said. "We have to treat as if the game has just started, and that mentality has helped us throughout the season."
Ridgefield came out with renewed energy in the third quarter by beginning the frame with an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 35-21. Ridgefield would not rescind its double digit lead for the rest of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Ridgefield continued to control the game and played stout defense which eliminated any hopes of a New Canaan rally.
"Tonight we didn't have it. We've got to remember what this feels like," Palmer said. "Our season is not over. We're in a good position to do well in the State tournament. Next time we're put in a position like this, we've just got to show up."
The Tigers were led by Emily Favorite's 14 points and Cholko's 13 points. Ellie Gravite and Lauren Eckstrom chipped in with seven and six points, respectively.
New Canaan senior captain and Melissa Tweed admitted than she and her teammates may have been relying a bit too heavily on Mannelly.
"We were just not ourselves tonight. We relied too much on Sarah and I think that put a lot of pressure on her," Tweed said. "Ridgefield got at her hard in the second half, and I don't think we stepped up as a team and played together today."
In addition to Mannelly's big night, New Canaan also received five points from both Tweed and Courtney Rogers.
Ridgefield will play in the FCIAC Championship game at 7:00 on Thursday back at Harbor Yard..
New Canaan won't take the court again until the beginning of the State tournament. New Canaan, the No. 6 seed of the State tournament, will host No. 27 Middletown on Monday at 6:00.
"I think this should fire us up for our next game," Tweed said. "I think we're going to grow from this, take it to the tournament and look to go far."