What to make of Ridgefield High School following Tuesday night’s 68-45 loss to Trinity Catholic, one that Tigers coach Carl Charles referred to as a butt-whipping, only he didn’t use the word butt?
Were the Tigers hyped up too much during the preseason, when they were the popular choice as team-to-beat in the FCIAC? Are they, as the Trinity fans chanted Tuesday, overrated?
The temptation may be to answer yes to both based on losses to St. Joseph and now the Crusaders. But the answer is more complex.
Based on seeing the Tigers for the first time tonight, they have championship level personnel, but they may also have less margin of error than the league’s other top teams.
Ridgefield’s zone is usually effective, but on Tuesday it was surprisingly passive, and the Crusaders were able to effectively shoot over it. The Tigers need it to be more stifling because they lack the speed of the other contenders. They also need to capitalize on the size advantage they will have on most nights.
The postseason will be a battle of teams with distinct edges, and the key to the title will be which one best utilizes their own unique set.
One must for the Tigers: they need to get more production from their three top players — Kurt Steidl, Jeff Racy and Patrick Racy — then they got Tuesday. The trio was held scoreless in the first quarter. Steidl, one of the league’s best players, finished with 16 points but had just 4 in the first half and often found his path to the basket impeded. Jeff Racy was held to 7 points and Patrick Racy to 2.
“We got out-defended, out-rebounded and out-intensitied,” said Charles, whose creation of a new word was more effective than his guards’ playmaking. “You get beat in every facet of the game and it is tough.”
Right now Charles’ greatest task will be working on his players’ mental and not physical games.
“The challenge of coaching is to make sure we don’t get down,” Charles said. “They’re our guys and we believe in them. We have to restore the confidence in the team.”
It is possible that a month from now Tuesday’s game with the Crusaders will be looked back on as a turning point. Either as the beating that snowballed into the downfall of a season that started with high hopes, or, perhaps, the beating that served as the impetus to a rally that results in the school’s first-ever boys basketball championship.