Wilton boys hoop team headed to state quarterfinals

As far as the Wilton High boys basketball team is concerned, March Madness is in full swing.

The 10th-seeded Warriors defeated seventh-seed Maloney, 67-64, in a second-round Class L state tournament game Saturday evening in Meriden.

Wilton will now travel to the far-eastern part of the state to face second-seed Woodstock Academy in the quarterfinals Monday at 7.

Rankings are just a number for the Warriors. When Wilton comes out and focuses on playing its style; gets balanced scoring from its starting line-up; throws different defensive sets at its opponent; plays hard at both ends of the court; doesn't let a deficit force a shift away from the game plan; plays un-selfishly as a team; and feeds off its fans, seeding means nothing.

Maloney found that out Saturday night.

The score was close throughout the entire contest, with the Spartans' biggest advantage only six points. Wilton trailed 53-48 entering the fourth quarter but used an 8-2 run to open the final eight minutes and take a 56-55 lead. The go-ahead basket was a three from the corner by Matt Shifrin, who used the glass to get it to fall.

Maloney came back to take a 60-56 lead, but a basket down low by Olandi LeGrand tied it at 62-62 with 1:55 to play. Maloney regained the lead at 64-62 the next trip down the floor, but Eric Houska put the Warriors in front to stay on a trey with 1:16 left.

Maloney turned the ball over with one minute to play and the Warriors went into a freeze to run down the clock. Houska hit two foul shots with 12 seconds to play for the final points in the game.

First-half action was fast-paced and resembled a three-point shootout. Each team made seven three-pointers in the half, which ended with Maloney ahead 37-35.

Wilton made only 12 shots from the field in the first half, including the threes.

“We went to a 1-3-1 defense to start the second half and took away their open threes, but they were scoring down low so we switched to man-to-man," said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak. "Our defense did a good job in holding their leading scorer (Jahlil Askew) below his season average, a goal we set before the game."

Weston Wilbur hit four three-pointers and led Wilton with 17 points. Houska added 16 points, while LeGrand had 11 points, Max Maudsley 10 points and Shifrin nine points. Both Wilbur and LeGrand had nine rebounds for the Warriors.

Askew led the Spartans with 15 points and Kenneth Dunn had 12 points.