FAIRFIELD \u2014 The Ridgefield boys basketball team spent the better part of its Saturday afternoon fending off tenacious rallies from Warde, managing to hang on to the lead from the middle of the second quarter until just 10.7 seconds remained in its FCIAC quarterfinal clash against the Mustangs. Up to that point in the second half, the Mustangs had cut the Tigers\u2019 lead to a single point six times but never caught up until J.J. Conway sank a pair of clutch free throws to tie the score after getting fouled on a strong drive to the hoop. After Conway\u2019s two fould shots, Brenden McNamara inbounded to Chris Longo, who quickly gave it back to McNamara. From there, the junior advanced the ball to the left wing and dished inside to Nick Laudati, who caught the pass with his back to the basket and turned around to release the ball with less than a second remaining for the game-winning layup in a wild 63-61 victory. \u201cWe were just trying to get the ball down the court,\u201d Laudati said. \u201cI don\u2019t think we had a specific play in mind. I think B-Mac saw the size mismatch and gave me the ball, and I just had to power through and make that layup.\u201d \u201cThey took our first option away, which is our point guard Zach, but then it got to McNamara,\u201d Ridgefield coach Andrew McClellan said. \u201cAt 6-5, everyone assumes he\u2019s just a post guy, but he\u2019s a playmaker for us. And he dribbled down and instead of taking a bad shot, he drove it inside to Nick and the rest is history.\u201d Up next for the Tigers is Tuesday\u2019s showdown with No. 7 Danbury which defeated No. 2 Darien, 59-56 on Saturday. Tuesday\u2019s two semifinal matchups are slated for 6 and 7:45 p.m. at Warde High School. No. 3 seeds in eight-team tournaments rarely have to open the playoffs in the building of their opponent, but Ridgefield indeed had to do so against Warde, which scored the first nine points. \u201cPlaying at Warde is definitely tougher,\u201d Laudati said. \u201cThey\u2019re playing in their home gym on a basket they shoot on, and obviously, they\u2019re able to bring a lot more students to the game because it\u2019s closer and they really came out with a desire. I have to give credit to them; they shot the ball well at the end.\u201d Trailing 25-18 midway through the second quarter, Ridgefield suddenly caught fire and closed out the half with an 18-0 run. \u201cThat second quarter we really just got out of our element of what we normally do and did so successfully in the other three quarters of the game and that was more of team basketball,\u201d Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. \u201cWe forced a couple quick ones in there, and Ridgefield played very well in those two or three minutes that we didn\u2019t play so well.\u201d Ridgefield\u2019s 18-point rampage at the end of the half saw McNamara produce seven points while going 4-for-4 from the line and hitting a 3-pointer while Longo and Joe Newborn also buried 3s. Newborn\u2019s came at the buzzer and boosted the Tigers\u2019 lead to 36-25 at the break. \u201cIn the beginning, we were kind of playing too fast,\u201d Ridgefield\u2019s Zach Esemplare said. \u201cIn the 18-run, we slowed down and were able to run a lot of offense, which led to getting a lot of high-quality shots and we were really knocking them down, too.\u201d After the rocky ending to the second quarter, Warde came out swinging in the third, immediately going on a 12-2 stretch that was bookended by 3-pointers from J.J. Conway. \u201cI wish we had 10 more seconds to play,\u201d said Swaller, whose team will open the upcoming Class LL state tournament at home. \u201cI\u2019d love to keep going at it, but as I said to them, the game is 32 minutes and every possession counts. For us, unfortunately, they had the ball in the last 10 seconds and they finished the play they needed to finish.\u201d J.J. Conway hit a layup to cut Ridgefield\u2019s lead to 60-59 with 19 ticks to go, Newborn went 1-for-2 from the stripe to make it 61-59 and Conway\u2019s two free throws tied the score before Laudati won the game on the Tigers\u2019 ensuing possession. \u201cLaudati is always open because he\u2019s so tall and he was able to make a play for us,\u201d Esemplare said of his teammate\u2019s game-winning bucket. firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jchik17 RIDGEFIELD 63, WARDE 61 WARDE (11-6 FCIAC) J.J. Conway 5 4-4 16; Matt becker 1 1-2 4; Sean Conway 5 0-0 15; Marcel Parsons 1 2-2 4; Jackson Longley 6 0-0 14; Malcolm Brune 4 0-0 8; Mark Garcia 0 0-0 0; Jaylen Jennett 0 0-2 0. Totals: 22 7-10 61. RIDGEFIELD (12-5 FCIAC) Brenden McNamara 6 6-7 19; Zach Esemplare 0 4-4 4; Joseph Newborn 2 6-10 11; Luke McGarrity 0 0-0 0; James St. Pierre 2 0-0 6; Chris Longo 6 2-2 16; Nick Laudati 3 1-2 7. Totals: 19 19-25 63. WARDE19 6 20 16\u201461 RIDGEFIELD11 25 10 17\u201463 3-pointers: W\u2014J.J. Conway 2, Becker, Sean Conway 3, Longley 2; R\u2014McNamara, Newborn, St. Pierre 2, Longo 2.