Boys basketball: Tigers hand Wilton second straight loss

Anytime that Wilton and Ridgefield teams square off on a court or field, both teams look to take their game to another level to put a hurting on their rival, and the event attracts a huge student body in attendance.

You can also throw out team records, as they mean nothing.

The Wilton boys basketball team, looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season last Friday night to Trinity Catholic, again fell behind early and played from behind much of the game on Thursday night in Ridgefield. The Tigers closed out the contest with a 6-0 run to come away with a 69-59 win.

“Again we got off to a slow start as we did in the Trinity game, didn’t play four quarters of basketball, we didn’t take advantage of what their defense gave us, and we were unable to execute the game plan,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak.

The game plan was to force Nicholas Laudati, the Tigers’ 6’7” center, to go to his right, away from his strong left move. Not only did that not work, but on the other end Laudati altered the shot selection of the driving Warriors, and controlled the boards on both ends of the court. Wilton had no answer for Laudati’s size and his in the inside scoring, as he led the tigers with 18 points.

“Neither zone or man-to-man defense kept him from scoring,” said Geriak. “It doesn’t bother me if we run the offense the way we draw it up and don’t get the ball to fall, it’s when the middle is open for mid-range jumpers and we don’t take them. In our first 10 games of the season we got out to good a lead, which takes a little wind out of our opponent’s sails. But in the last two game that didn’t happen.”

Ridgefield led 6-2 early in the game, but when Kyle Maatallah hit a basket the game was tied at 8-8 with 1:21 to play in the first quarter. James St. Pierre hit back-to-back 3-pointers on consecutive Tiger possessions to stake the home team to a 14-8 lead after one.

Both teams picked up the scoring pace in the second quarter, with neither team forging any big runs. A Nick Kronenberg long 3-pointer with 5:18 remaining in the second quarter tied the game at 19-19. Ridgefield came right back on St. Pierre’s fourth 3-pointer of the first half to regain the lead at 23-19. Three straight buckets by Maatallah, with the last coming off a Tiger turnover, gave the Warriors their only lead of the game at 25-24 with 3:55 to play until halftime.

Ridgefield finished out the first half with an 11–5 run to take a 35-30 lead into the break. Both teams had a stellar performance at the free-throw line in the first half as the Tigers were a perfect 10-for-10, while Wilton was 7-for-8.

Laudati got the home crowd into it with a slam dunk to start the scoring in the third quarter to up the Tigers’ lead to seven, 37-30. Neither team lit up the scoreboard in the third period, with Wilton scoring 11 points to the Tigers 10 points, leaving Ridgefield up 45-41 going into the final quarter.

Wilton got to within two points at 53-51 midway through the final period after back-to-back baskets by Maatallah, but Ridgefield shut the door on the Warriors by going 7-for-8 from the foul line to come away with the 69-59 win.

Maatallah led Wilton with 18 points, followed by Drew Connolly with 12 points and Nick Kronenberg with 10 points. Sean Breslin, who played the entire game, chipped in with eight points. Nick Kronenberg and Breslin each had two 3-pointers.

“We need to get 100% from everybody on this team for us to get back on track,” said Connolly. “We need to be at our best to compete with the teams in this league. We need the seniors to lead by example and get the rest of the team to follow us.”

Rounding out the Wilton scoring were Scott Cunningham with five points, Joe Pozzi with three points, Kyle Shifrin and Matt Kronenberg with two points each, and Jack Wood with one point. Pozzi and Cunningham each had a 3-pointer.

In addition to Laudati’s 18 points, the Tigers (9-5 overall, 6-4 FCIAC) got 15 points from St. Pierre and 10 points from Chris Longo.

Ridgefield finished the game going 19-for-21 from the foul line, while Wilton was 7-for-10 from the line.

With the back-to-back losses, the Warriors are now 10-2 on the season and will look to get back to their winning ways as they travel to Bridgeport tonight to face the 2-10 Hilltoppers.