Third-seed Wilton and sixth-seed New Britain were tied after 31 minutes and 29. 5 seconds in Friday night’s Division II boys basketball state tournament quarterfinal at the Zeoli Field House in Wilton.
And no one could have predicted how the final 30.5 seconds of New Britain’s 64-63 victory would play out.
After a Shamah Charles basket in the paint tied the game at 62-62, the Warriors called a timeout with 30.5 seconds remaining. New Britain’s Kaiyon Gunn then came up with a steal and raced down the court for the layup and a two-point lead with 15 seconds left.
Wilton pushed the ball up the court and got off a shot that rolled off the rim and was rebounded by New Britain. Wilton then was forced to foul the Golden Hurricanes twice to get them into a one-and-one from the free-throw line.
New Britain’s Thameen Dupree missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Charles was able to tip the miss to his teammate Gunn. Wilton quickly fouled Gunn, but it appeared that time had expired and players and coaches from New Britain’s bench ran onto the court thinking the game was over.
An official had blown his whistle before the clock expired, however, and after several minutes of discussion between the three officials, their decision was announced to the crowd: Gunn had been fouled with .3 seconds left on the clock and would go to the line to shoot a one-and-one, but New Britain was assessed a technical foul for leaving the bench and Wilton would shoot two free throws and get the ball.
With the clock stopped, Gunn missed his foul shot, moving the action to the other end of the court. Wilton’s Kyle Hyzy stepped to the line for the Warriors for two shots and a chance to send the game into overtime. Hyzy missed his first attempt but made the second, leaving the Warriors down one point at 64-63.
Wilton was unable to convert off a desperation inbound pass, and New Britain held on to advance to the Division II semifinals against second-seed Glastonbury.
“We came into the game trying to limit their three-point baskets and apply pressure on defense,” New Britain coach Kurt Reis said. “From what I knew about them going into the game, I was expecting them to go 10 or 11 players deep and have their big man (Ryan Biberon) on the floor more. As for my team, Kaiyon Gunn didn’t give me the production I usually expect from him, but he came up big with the steal and bucket when we needed it most.”
Wilton got off to good start, led twice by eight points in the first quarter, and held a 23-16 lead after one. But New Britain opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run to surge in front 26-23 and was ahead 40-39 at halftime and 52-49 through three quarters.
New Britain slowed the pace in the fourth, with neither team scoring for the first 3:30 of the period until another three-pointer by Wilton’s Andrew Smith tied the game at 52-52. The game was tied five more times in the period, with neither team leading by more than two points.
“My team played their hearts out all season and I feel really bad for the seniors to go out this way,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. “We rushed our play tonight, which made us turn the ball over too many times to overcome. We seem to have also lost our composure, which is not the character of this team. Don’t take anything away from New Britain; they caused us to play that way. They’re quick on defense and took away some of our options.”
Notes: Zayvion Eusebe led Wilton with 18 points. Smith added 15 points (on five 3-pointers), and Nick Kronenberg and Tucker Walden each contributed eight points. Hyzy (seven), Biberon (five), and Reilly Bingaman (two) also scored for the Warriors.
Charles paced New Britain with 17 points.
Wilton ended the season with an 18-6 record.