When the Wilton High boys basketball team took the floor Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the FCIAC playoffs, it achieved a pre-season goal of making the tournament, something the team hadn’t accomplished in over a decade.
Already in, the Warriors set their sights on a new goal: Not going down without a fight while trying to earn a victory.
Clearly, this is a goal-oriented team.
In a thrilling contest, sixth-seed Wilton defeated third-seed Westhill, 66-64, in overtime at Fairfield Ludlowe.
Wilton will now face second-seed Trinity Catholic in the semifinals on Tuesday night at Fairfield Warde at 6.
Matt Shifrin hit two foul shots to give Wilton a 57-54 lead with 57.4 seconds to play in regulation. The Wilton defense held the Vikings on the perimeter, not allowing them to put up a three and taking over 30 seconds off the clock. This forced Westhill to go inside, and the Vikings got a basket and a foul with 13.6 seconds left. Westhill made the free throw to tie the game at 57-57.
Wilton quickly moved the ball up the court, and Eric Houska, who led his team with 25 points, got a good look at a three, but the shot rimmed in and out of the basket to send the game into overtime.
Westhill scored first in the overtime to take a two-point lead. Wilton answered with a 6-0 run to take a 63-59 lead that it would not give up. The game turned into a foul shooting contest, with Wilton going three for six and Westhill hitting on five of eight.
Wilton played the entire overtime without Weston Wilbur, who picked up his fifth foul late in the fourth quarter, and the last 53.6 seconds of overtime without Olandi LeGrand, who also fouled out.
When the teams met back in the season opener in December, Westhill jumped out an early double-digit lead on the way to a 59-53 victory. On Saturday, Wilton was determined not to let that happen again, as the Warriors got out to a 5-0 lead. Westhill nailed a three just at the end of the first quarter to take a 17-15 advantage into the second quarter.
Westhill did get its lead to as many as nine points early in the second, but when Houska stole the ball and converted it into two points, the Warriors had a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 24-22. The teams went into the break tied at 28-28. Houska had 13 points in the first half.
The Vikings took an early third-quarter lead, but Wilton’s Shifrin got hot and drained back-to-back threes to give his team a 38-37 advantage. Shifrin’s teammates did an outstanding job working the ball around the perimeter to get the ball to him for the shots.
Westhill had a 43-41 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Wilton opened the period with a 7-0 run.
In addition to Houska’s 25 points, Shifrin and LeGrand chipped in with 12 points each and Max Maudsley had eight points.