Wilton Boys basketball defeats Holy Cross in DII quarterfinal thriller

WILTON — After Wilton’s loss to Ridgefield on its home court in the FCIAC finals, head coach Joel Geriak said he had to lean on his senior class to help refocus the team’s vision toward winning a state championship. Two wins later, his team has put itself in a position to book a trip to Mohegan Sun.

Trailing by two in the final minute, Thomas McKiernan connected on a corner 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to propel Wilton over Holy Cross 63-62 to advance to the Division II semifinals.

With the score at 62-60, Wilton senior Parker Woodring drove into the lane, lost the ball, regathered himself, and found McKiernan in the corner for the go-ahead basket.

“It was one of our basic sets we run. We use it once or twice throughout the game,” Geriak said. “Just think of the old Picket Fence play from Hoosiers.”

Early on, Wilton put themselves in a deficit as a result of its lackluster defense guarding the perimeter. Between Holy Cross sophomore Nate Muniz and junior Peyton Mullins, the Crusaders found themselves at home from deep. Holy Cross connected on seven of its nine 3-pointers in the game in the first half.

The perimeter shooting helped Holy Cross jump out to a 14-10 lead after one quarter, and a 38-33 halftime lead.

“They were hitting shots, there wasn’t much we could do about it,” McKiernan said. “We figured out that (Peyton Mullins) was the shooter pretty late, but we contested him near the end and stopped him.”

Wilton used its defensive adjustment to hold Holy Cross scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the second half and pulled ahead 42-38. The Crusaders answered with a personal 7-0 run by Ashton Sannasi to retake the lead, continuing the back-and-forth affair.

The lead changed hands six times over the final 13 minutes, including the eventual game-winner from McKiernan with time running down.

“The play was for Parker (Woodring) to drive, and the defense helped, and he found me in the corner and they trusted me,” McKiernan said. “That’s what kids dream of. That was insane.”

After a Holy Cross timeout, Kevin Matiz turned it over on the ensuing inbound, giving Wilton a chance to extend its one-point lead.

As Wilton inbounded the ball underneath the Holy Cross basket, a missed layup gave the Crusaders one final half-court heave to save their season, but it hit high off the backboard, sending the crowd into a frenzy and the student section stormed the court.

Now, Wilton will turn its attention to Bristol Central and Donovan Clingan. As Wilton fans stormed the court and chanted, “We want Clingan”, Geriak knew it would be one of the toughest tasks his team has seen all season.

“Maybe we can get a broomstick out to simulate his size,” Geriak joked. “He’s going to UConn for a reason, not just because he’s 7-foot-2, but because he can play too. I have to find a way to slow him down. I don’t even know if that’s possible.”

WILTON 63, HOLY CROSS 62

HOLY CROSS 14 24 7 17 — 62

WILTON 10 23 17 13 — 63

HOLY CROSS (17-5)

Nate Muniz 2, 3, 0-0, 13; Elijah Parker 3, 0, 1-2, 7; Peyton Mullins 0, 5, 0-0, 15; Trevor Carroll 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Derone Fordham 2, 0, 0-0, 4; Joseph Dane 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Zac Blaschke 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Kevin Matiz 2, 0, 2-2, 6; Ashton Sannasi 6, 1, 2-4, 17; Jordan Gunthrop 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Christopher Perrone 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Kaiden Dunn 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Adrian Acosta 0, 0, 0-0, 0.

WILTON (19-3)

Zarius Eusebe 3, 0, 0-0, 6; Thomas McKiernan 0, 3, 2-2, 11; Parker Woodring 7, 1, 4-9, 21; Declan Brokaw 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Kevin Hyzy 1, 2, 0-1, 8; Spencer Liston 0, 1, 1-2, 4; Jack Lynch 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Henry Roy 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Nicholas Walden 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Thomas Walsh 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Anderson Campbell 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Maxwell Andrews 1, 0, 1-2, 3; Craig Hyzy 2, 2, 0-0, 10; Maxwell Jarvie 0, 0, 0-0, 0; Max Silva 0, 0, 0-0, 0.