When one of your preseason goals is to qualify for the conference post-season tournament, and you have three games remaining to make it happen, you better take advantage of the situation
On Saturday afternoon, the Wilton High boys basketball team did just that.
Playing the team they were tied with for the eighth and final FCIAC playoff berth, the Warriors defeated Bassick, 75-72, in a high-scoring affair at the Zeoli Field House.
The win gave Wilton (11-7 overall, 9-7 FCIAC) sole possession of the eighth seed and left the Warriors needing to win one of their two remaining games to lock up a playoff berth.
Action in the first half was end to end, with Bassick (10-8, 8-8 FCIAC) lighting up the scoreboard by shooting a high percentage from the field, including six three-pointers. The teams traded baskets throughout the first eight minutes of play. Weak defense and several turnovers by the home team resulted in a four-point Wilton deficit, 22-18, at the end of one.
Bassick built a nine-point led early in the second quarter at 31-22, but the Warriors hung tough and started on the comeback trail. The game was full of big moments for the Warriors. The first came just before the half when Eric Houska blocked a shot and stole the ball with less than 20 seconds to play and Olandi LeGrand converted it into two points at the other end. The basket cut the Lions lead to one, 44-43, at the break.
By halftime the Warriors had three players (Houska, Weston Wilbur and Max Maudsley) in double figures. As a team Wilton was also 14 of 15 from the free throw line in a foul-ridden first half. Bassick was eight for 14 from the line.
Midway through the third quarter, Wilbur drove to the hoop to give Wilton its biggest lead of the game at 58-51. Wilbur, who poured in 24 points in the game, was racking up the points going to the hole.
Bassick closed to within two, 62-60, by the end of three. Bassick then got a basket to open the fourth and tie the score.
The game was tied three times in a final period that was packed with more big moments for the Warriors when the game was on the line. Chris Curtis called a time-out as he was jumping out of bounds to save the ball and a possession; Matt Shifrin ripped the ball away from the Bassick player he was guarding to set up a fast-break basket; a Wilbur tip-in gave his team the lead late for good; Houska made a steal with just over a minute to play; and a Curtis inbound pass to an open LeGrand under the basket extended the Warrior lead to five.
Throw in a few Wilbur and LeGrand blocks in the game to round out the big plays and you have the recipe for a win.
“They knew what they needed to do coming into today’s game,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak of this team. “If you take away the three, then we drive to the basket. This team plays unselfish; they just want to succeed.
“Bassick was on fire from the floor in the first half. We changed up the defensive set in the second half and we had better luck with that. They (Bassick) are playing their second game in as many days and haven’t practiced in a week, so I think they lost their legs late in the game.”
In addition to Wilbur’s 24 points, Maudsley finished with 17 points, Houska had 14 points and LeGrand had 12 points. The Warriors finished 24 of 27 from the foul line. Wilbur and LeGrand also had 11 rebounds each.