RIDGEFIELD -- The Ridgefield High School boys basketball team, considered by many the preseason favorite to win its first FCIAC title, overcame some rocky times before finding its stride down the final quarter pole.
Still, a five-game winning streak patterned against the bottom portion of the conference left some wondering whether Ridgefield was, well, Paper Tigers.
Those doubts were answered Wednesday night, when the Tigers put forth one of their most complete performances of the season, an emphatic 67-50 win over Westhill that further buoyed their confidence despite what will be a murderous road in the FCIAC tournament.
"We definitely had a lot of momentum the last few games and we knew we would play well today," said Kurt Steidl, one of seven seniors honored before the game, who finished with 19 points. "We wanted to come out strong."
Steidl singlehandedly took care of that, hitting a pair of jumpers up top -- the second from behind the arc -- on Ridgefield's first two possessions.
Westhill (15-5, 14-4 FCIAC) stayed close through the first period before the Tigers' sharpshooting took over.
With Ridgefield up 18-15 early in the second quarter, Jeff Racy and Steidl hit consecutive 3-pointers, then Racy scored on a drive for a 26-15 lead. The Vikings answered with two straight baskets before what would become a 15-1 Ridgefield run put the game away.
Racy, another of the team's seniors, put on a long-distance show. He made six 3-point shots -- four in the second half -- and finished with a game high 24 points. Patrick Racy added 11.
"This is how I like to play, to get up-tempo," Ridgefield coach Carl Charles said. "We've been talking about taking it one quarter at a time and we are on a streak of 15 right now. I love where we are right now."
The Tigers will need to stay hot because the landscape will soon change. Ridgefield finished as the No. 5 seed -- coming out on the short end of a three-team tiebreaker with Westhill, despite the win, and Bridgeport Central -- and will open Saturday's quarterfinals against the No. 4 Hilltoppers in a contest that could just as easily be the championship game. If form holds, Ridgefield would then have to defeat St. Joseph and Trinity Catholic.
Central won the teams' first meeting, 57-49, back on Feb. 1.
"We're really excited to play them again," Steidl said. "The first game we had 23 turnovers and it really hurt us. I feel like if we didn't have the turnovers we would have beaten them by double digits."
Westhill coach Howard White, given the outcome, remained upbeat, preferring to look forward rather than through the rear-view mirror. The Vikings have clinched the No. 3 seed and finished the regular season 15-5, making them the surprise team in the league thus far.
Still, they head into the postseason having lost four of their last five games.
"At this point in time we are 0-0," White said. "Somehow we have to fix it. As far as the season is concerned, it has been a great one. And tonight give credit where credit is due. Ridgefield shot the lights out. When Kurt hit that first shot it was like `Oh, boy, it is going to be a long one. "
Yveson Cassmajor continued his strong play, making four 3-point shots and leading the Vikings with 16 points. Peter Horn came off the bench and made three 3-pointers to finish with 9 points.
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WESTHILL (15-5, 14-4): Jeremiah Livingston 0 2-2 2; Terrell Middleton 1 2-2 4; C.J. Donaldson 1 4-4 6; Evan Skoparantzos 1 3-4 5; Yveson Cassamajor 6 0-0 16; Guyveson Cassamajor 1 0-0 2; Jordan Young 0 0-0 0; Ariel De La Cruz 3 0-0 6; Marquis Giddens 0 0-0 0; Peter Horn 3 0-0 9. TOTALS: 16 11-12 50.
RIDGEFIELD (16-4, 14-4): Kurt Steidl 8 1-2 19; Jeff Racy 9 0-0 24; Patrick Racy 5 1-1 11; Jonathan Hicks 1 1-2 3; Charlie Irwin 0 2-2 2; Andrew Barton 1 0-0 2; Matt Brennan 1 0-0 3; Zach Warde 1 0-0 2; Chris Brewi 0 0-0 0; Chip McClelland 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 26 5-7 67.
WESTHILL 13 8 15 14 -- 50
RIDGEFIELD 15 19 17 16 -- 67
3-pointers: W--Y. Cassmajor 4, Horn 3; R--Steidl 2, J. Racy 6, Brennan.