eschickler@bcnnew.com

Despite having its comeback attempt fall short last Wednesday, the Staples boys basketball team is taking many positives from it. Staples dropped to 1-4 after losing 50-47 to Ridgefield (2-2) in the Staples Boys Basketball Holiday Tournament championship game, but is pleased with how it battled back and that many players stepped it up during the absence of junior point guard Frankie Bergonzi (injury).

"We played well enough to win and I'm happy with how [junior] Luke Yeager played," said Wreckers coach Colin Devine.

Yeager made the all-tournament team and led Staples with 17 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot and scored five points within a 10-second span to turn a 46-42 deficit into a 47-46 lead with 1:01 remaining in the game. He swished a 3-pointer (third of the game) with 1:11 left and followed with a steal at midcourt, which he converted into a layup.

"We were down four with [a little more than] a minute left and I was hoping if I made the plays, we'd be back in it," said Yeager. "Ranko [senior captain Brendan Rankowitz] told me in the possession before to go for the steal and I went for it."

Ridgefield's Jon Tagliaferri responded with a jump shot with 31.1 seconds to go and the Tigers never looked back. The Wreckers had two chances to reclaim the lead but Ridgefield stole it from them both times. Staples got a reprieve with 9.8 seconds left when it forced a travel violation but the Tigers immediately stole it and Bryan Galvin hit two free throws to ice the game, 50-47.

"I guess inexperience hurt us but we can't use it as an excuse," said Yeager.

Yeager, taking responsibility for one of the aforementioned turnovers, said, "I guess part of it is my fault."

Part of the problem for the Wreckers was that they fell behind. Staples had a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, which ended in a 12-12 tie, but Ridgefield built itself a 30-21 halftime lead, which it extended to 13, 36-23 in the third quarter. This is where the Wreckers rallied, closing out the quarter with an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to two, 36-34 after three quarters.

"We're a young team and we could have packed it in being down 13, but instead, we battled back and I'm proud of them," said Devine.

Junior Gabe Seidman (nine points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals) kept Staples in the game with a three, set screens and fed junior Jake Felman for a jumper. Seidman also made the all-tournament team.

"We didn't play well in the third quarter this year but in the championship game, the team stepped it up [in the third] and showed heart," said Seidman. "Their kid hit a very nice shot and in the end, we didn't execute."

Felman (11 points, six rebounds) scored four points in the fourth quarter, including a set shot, and forced turnovers by going hard after loose balls.

"I just tried to work hard, play good defense and stop the other team," said Felman. "I felt comfortable taking my shots and Luke did a good job of getting me the ball."

Rankowitz (four points, two steals, one blocked shot) played well defensively. Juniors Grant Fenton (four points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots) and Andreas Bub (two points, one block) contributed in the paint while classmate Tyler Jacobs was tenacious on defense.

Despite the loss, the two all-tourney players see positive signs for the future.

"This is a positive for our team because we learned we can play with anyone," said Seidman. "If we play hard, we'll be fine."

Yeager said, "We're improving every day and getting competitive. I think we'll get eight wins [and make states]."

Staples played at West-hill yesterday after press time and will play at Bassick on Friday at 7 p.m.