Give the Staples boys basketball team credit for always bouncing back and trying to overcome obstacles.

Staples erased an eight-point deficit in the first quarter and 10-point deficit in the third quarter while facing a much taller Ridgefield squad, but in the end, the Wreckers couldn't get out of their own way and lost 51-49 to Ridgefield in the Newtown Holiday tournament championship game on

Wednesday at Newtown High School.

Ridgefield raised its record to 4-0. Staples dropped to 3-2 and coincidently, its other loss was to the Tigers, 66-63 on opening night of the season on Dec. 15.

"The two teams played a good game and Ridgefield ended up on top," Wreckers Coach Colin Devine said. "Two good teams played good basketball and [Tigers] Coach [Carl] Charles does a good job with them."

Tigers Senior co-captain Chris Esemplare (nine points) scored six straight points to give Ridgefield an 8-0 lead.

Senior tri-captain Gabe Seidman was a catalyst for the Wreckers, scoring 15 points to go with five rebounds, five assists, five steals, five forced turnovers and a blocked shot. Seidman fueled the first surge with a coast-to-coast layup off a steal and fed sophomore Pete Rankowitz (five points, one rebound, three assists, one steal, one blocked shot, one forced turnover) for a layup off a steal, which made it 12-10.

"We played good defense and our defense led to offense," Seidman said. "We tried to get our fast break going after forcing turnovers and finish."

The Tigers answered with an 8-2 run off of three layups and extended their lead back to eight, 20-12 with 2:36 remaining in the first quarter. Staples junior Mike Argosh (three points, four rebounds, two assists, two forced turnovers, one charge drawn) broke the surge by swishing a 3-pointer from Rankowitz.

Usually, making 3-pointers are second-nature for the Wreckers, but they hit only two against Ridgefield. Senior tri-captain Luke Yeager is usually lights out from international waters but had only one trey and many of his shots as well as his teammates' shots from beyond the arc, rolled out of the net.

"I didn't shoot too well and it cost us the game," Yeager said. "I guess it was a tough place to play. It [the two games in the holiday tournament] was the first time I played in the gym and I had to get used to it."

Seidman said, "We weren't hitting our shots even though we got some good ones off."

Wreckers senior tri-captain Jake Felman said, "The shots didn't fall for us, which happens. Ridgefield is a great team and wasn't going to let us shoot."

Yeager's 3-pointer tied it 22-22 but Ridgefield answered with a 5-0 spurt to take a 27-22 lead. Esemplare swished his team's only 3-pointer with 2:27 left in the half for the aforementioned score.

Conversely, the Tigers also struggled from outside as they only made one 3-pointer. Although Ridgefield also dealt with the same unfriendly rim as Staples, it used its height to its advantage and won the battle of the glass, which was a difference in the game.

Senior Mike Kenney's (12 points) putback off the offensive glass broke the tie and started Ridgefield's run.

"They are a physical team down low and we weren't ready at the beginning of the game and they jumped out on us," Seidman said.

The Wreckers battled back because of their ability to force turnovers. They forced 20 overall, 10 in each half while committing 16, seven in the first half.

Seidman's forced turnovers led to Felman hitting layups.

"I tried to get the ball inside," Felman said. "The easiest way to score when the shots aren't falling is to get close inside and go for the layups."

Felman's (18 points, seven rebounds, one assist, three steals, three forced turnovers) hit a layup at the halftime buzzer to give Staples a 29-27 halftime lead.

"I felt great out there," Felman said. "We had good energy on defense."

Ridgefield controlled the third quarter because of their strength on the offensive glass and led 45-35 after three quarters.

"We can't afford to dig ourselves a hole with Ridgefield," Felman said. "It was a game of runs."

In the fourth quarter, Felman tied it 45-45 with a jumper and gave the Wreckers a 47-45 advantage with two free throws. Despite being only 6-1, he was able to get inside and get some rebounds, which helped get Staples back in the game.

"I have to time my jumps right because I'm not tall enough," Felman said.

Also creating problems for Ridgefield was (six points, two rebounds, two assists, five steals, two forced turnovers, one charge drawn) made some nifty plays in coming up with steals. However, Staples couldn't get out of its own way as it was 9-17 (53 percent) from the free throw line and if it made three of those missed shots, it would have won.

Felman was the only Wrecker to do well at the charity stripe, going a perfect 4-4. Seidman (3-6), Yeager (1-2), Rankowitz (1-2) and Argosh (0-3) may have put Staples over the top if they made their free throws.

"We struggled at the line the last two games but we'll fix it in practice and we'll be all right," Devine said.

Yeager said, "We need to work on our free throws in practice and concentrate more at the line."

The Tigers won it on senior co-captain Bryan Galvin's layup with 9.8 seconds remaining in the game. The Wreckers had one last chance after that but turned it over to end the game.

Seidman and Yeager were selected to the all-tournament team.

"I much rather beat Ridgefield than be on the all-tournament team," Yeager said.

Seniors D. Scanlan (two assists, one steal, two forced turnovers) and Rob DiBartolomeo (three rebounds, one blocked shot) also contributed.

"We played hard but a few plays went their way instead of ours, which would have changed the game," Yeager said.

Despite falling short twice, Staples is confident it can avoid the hat trick because it came so close both times and it's tough for one team to go 3-0 against its evenly-matched opponent.

"We're two evenly matched teams and I'd like to play them again," Seidman said.

Felman said, "I hope to play them again and I welcome the challenge."