Wilton's season ends with state loss to New Britain

Andrew Smith (file photo) scored 18 points in Wilton's season-ending loss to New Britain on Monday night in the Division I state tournament.

Andrew Smith (file photo) scored 18 points in Wilton’s season-ending loss to New Britain on Monday night in the Division I state tournament.

Gretchen McMahon / For Hearst Connecticut Media

One surefire way to win most close games is to make free throws.

The New Britain boys basketball team did that Monday night.

Hitting 23-of-29 foul shots (many in the final quarter), the 15th-seeded Hurricanes edged 18th-seed Wilton, 57-51, in the first round of the Division I state tournament in New Britain.

It was the second straight year that the Hurricanes ended Wilton’s season: The Warriors fell to New Britain by one point in the Division II quarterfinals last March.

Monday’s game was tight throughout, with New Britain ahead by four points after one quarter, two points at halftime, and one point going into the fourth quarter.

“[We] had our chances,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said.

Senior guard Andrew Smith hit six 3-pointers to finish with 18 points and lead the Warriors, who finished the season with an 11-11 record. Kyle Hyzy and John Walsh each added 12 points for Wilton.

Smith made two 3-pointers to tie the game with 5:20 left in the third period. After New Britain went ahead by four points, Hyzy scored and was fouled, sinking the free throw to pull the Warriors within one entering the final period.

New Britain stayed ahead from there, hitting its free throws after Wilton went over the foul limit. Tahmeen Dupree had a game-high 27 points for the Hurricanes, with 13 of those coming at the line.

Geriak was impressed with how his team played this season.

“After a 4-7 start, to come back and go 7-2 down the stretch ... it was a success,” he said. “Being one possession away from making the FCIAC semifinals and competing in the Division I tournament, I’d say we had a very successful season.

“We know it’s not a championship, and that’s always our goal, but we showed a lot of character and heart to battle back and be a very competitive team even with the big injuries and sickness we had this year,” Geriak added.

Notes: Parker Woodring, Josh White and Jimmy McKiernan added three points apiece for Wilton.

New Britain will play second-seed Norwich Free Academy in a second-round game Wednesday night in Norwich. NFA received a bye in the opening round.