NEW BRITAIN – Disappointment was the foremost emotion that gripped New Britain High boys basketball coach Todd Stigliano as he emerged from the season’s final postgame discussion.
But other thoughts pervaded his mind. He talked about deep respect for Ridgefield, which had just ousted the Hurricanes from the Class LL tournament with a 63-57 overtime victory, and the Tigers’ Division I-bound star Kurt Steidl.
He also spoke of the offseason commitment that he and as many as nine returning juniors would have to make in order for New Britain to make a deeper tournament run.
The respect for Steidl, the 6’6 guard who heads to the University of Vermont next fall, echoed through the atmosphere at Chick Shea Gym. His tangible contributions were 31 points and 20 rebounds, but his greatest asset cannot be defined by numbers.
“[Monday] night in the fourth quarter, he had 13 or 14 against Greenwich and they quoted him in the paper as saying, ‘I knew it was my senior year and I had to take over the game.’ Tonight, he just willed it,” Stigliano said. “He did whatever had to be done for his team to come out with a win. As sad as it is for me, you have to give him credit.”
The eight-seeded Hurricanes (18-6) were in prime position to advance to the quarterfinals.
A three-pointer by Michael Robinson – New Britain’s only one of the game – and a free-throw by Craven Johnson gave the ’Canes a 51-44 lead with 5:21 left in regulation. But the next four possessions brought three turnovers and Daequone Clark missing the front end of a one-and-one.
They still held a three-point lead as the time remaining slipped under a minute. When Steidl handled near the top of the key, he was double-teamed, but the Tigers deftly beat the overload. Two passes around the perimeter gave Jeff Racy an open look from beyond the arc in the left corner and the game was tied with 31 seconds left.
Stigliano called timeout with 20.2 seconds remaining. Annuel Saint Juste dribbled about 15 seconds away and unleashed a 25-foot jumper that caromed off the rim. It wasn’t what Stigliano dialed up.
“He’s obviously a good shooter and he’s hit a lot of buzzer-beaters,” Stigliano said. “He waits, waits and hopes the [defender] backs up a step and he can hit at NBA range. But no, that’s not what we discussed. I wanted him to get the ball but I wanted him to get it going to the rim.
“You want to be aggressive, try to get something underneath, you can get a rebound or try to get somebody to commit a foul. … It’s not his fault. He’s trying to help his team. It just didn’t work out that way.”
Overtime featured a Ridgefield parade to the foul line. Steidl went 7-for-9 from the stripe and the ’Canes offense went stagnant. They turned the ball over twice and misfired on all five of their field-goal tries. Ridgefield’s trapping 1-3-1 zone – a defense New Britain rarely encountered – effectively collapsed on Johnson and Hyman in the paint and walled off Saint Juste from impacting the outcome from long distance.
“I feel inadequate dealing with that 1-3-1,” Stigliano said. “I feel like I didn’t get them to understand what I wanted to have happen and we got stagnant. We couldn’t figure it out. We couldn’t get the ball where we wanted to get it. We didn’t do a good job moving the basketball.”
But Steidl was the story. He committed his fourth foul with 4:36 left in the third quarter and Ridgefield ahead 32-31. The Tigers initially expanded their lead to six in their star’s absence but the ’Canes ignited their transition game and ended the quarter with an 11-0 run.
Steidl’s fifth foul never came. He scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the fourth quarter and dominated the extra period.
“I just wanted to win this game so bad, I had to be smarter on defense and smarter on offense by not going into charges,” Steidl said. “I was just being a smarter player so I could be out on the court with my teammates and we could get the win.”
Johnson (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Curtis Hyman were powerful forces inside, but New Britain missed 10 of 11 from three-point range.
“They’re really athletic at every position,” Ridgefield coach Carl Charles said. “We knew they had a strong inside game. You could see evidence of that the way they attacked the basket. I thought they’d have better perimeter shooting.”
Robinson had six assists but was unable to get the open looks he had Monday against Staples. Clark had 10 points in his final game. Kevin Tirado, the only other senior, had two points and played aggressive defense in reserve.
Class LL Boys Basketball
Ridgefield 63, New Britain 57 (OT)
(2nd Round, at Chick Shea Gymnasium)
RIDGEFIELD (18-5): Charles Irwin 0 0-0 0, Jeff Racy 2 2-2 7, Matt Brennan 2 3-3 9, Pat Racy 7 0-1 14, Kurt Steidl 9 12-14 31, Jonathan Hicks 1 0-0 2, Andrew Barton 0 0-0 0, Chip McClelland 0 0-2 0, Dan Greenberg 0 0-0 0, Zach Ward 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 17-22 63.
NEW BRITAIN (18-6): Daequone Clark 4 2-3 10, Curtis Hyman 5 0-2 10, Michael Robinson 1 0-0 3, Annuel Saint Juste 3 4-5 10, Craven Johnson 6 10-14 22, Isaiah Vasquez 0 0-0 0, Kevin Tirado 1 0-0 2, Ronday McCray 0 0-0 0, Curtrell Hyman 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 16-24 57.
Ridgefield 16 14 10 17 6 – 63
New Britain 11 16 18 12 0 – 57
Three-point goals: R – J. Racy, Brennan 2, Steidl; NB – Robinson.