Boys basketball: WHS changes things up to top Eagles
The Wilton High boys basketball team came into Monday night’s game against Trumbull with its back against the wall and time running out to qualify for the conference postseason.
And in the eyes of their head coach, the Warriors weren’t playing up to his expectations
With that being said, after the team’s loss on Thursday night to Bridgeport Central, Wilton head coach Joel Geriak decided it was time for a change. The Warriors took the floor Monday night with two new players in the starting lineup, sophomore Kyle Hyzy and junior Ryan Schriber, while seniors Scott Cunningham and Kyle Maatallah came off the bench.
“We have been playing terrible on defense, so I needed a more defensive lineup on the floor and also to send a message to the team that defense wins games and we need a better effort on that end of the floor,” said Geriak.
Geriak’s plan worked just as he drew it up as the Warriors came away with a 63-50 win over the Trumbull Eagles at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.
“They executed the defensive game plan perfectly and this was the best defensive effort all year. We went back to fundamentals on defense and it paid of,” he said. “We played team defense, with the guards supporting the front line helping out on the boards and allowing us to get out in transition.”
The switch to start Hyzy and Schriber, and Zach Pozzi getting into the game early, created pressure on the Trumbull ball handlers and held them to 50 points in the game, which is below their season average.
The Eagles (12-3 overall, 8-3 FCIAC) jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead. A Nick Kronenberg three and bucket by Antonio Brancato put the Warriors up 5-4 and they ended the first quarter up 13-11.
Trumbull came out fast in the second quarter and held a 20-15 lead midway through the period. That’s when the Warriors’ long-range bombs started to fall. A 3-pointer by Maatallah, followed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Kronenberg put Wilton ahead 24-20. A Cunningham basket and a three by Brancato gave the Warriors a 29-22 lead at the half.
The Eagles got to within two points in the third period at 31-29, but Wilton maintained its lead the entire third quarter and when Cunningham got a step on his defender, the Warriors had an 11-point lead to close the third quarter at 46-35.
Wilton (9-5 overall, 7-4 FCIAC) outscored the Eagles 18-15 in the fourth quarter to cruise to the 63-50 win.
The Warriors clearly dominated the defensive boards with their team effort. Robbie Hermann and Kyle Shifrin boxed out their defender, clearing the paint for one of their teammates to pull down the rebound.
Kronenberg led the Warriors with a season-high 22 points, which included knocking down six 3-pointers.
“We found out Friday about the lineup changes, so the starting five would be playing different roles in tonight’s game,” said Kronenberg. “We knew we weren’t playing well on defense and we needed a strong defensive effort to win games. The coach showed confidence in me with increased minutes over the last few games, as I have stepped by my defensive play. In the games we lost this season we have not played up to the expectations of the coaching staff and we need to get back to winning, so changes were made. We are still searching for our identity as a team, but we know we need to find it soon.”
Kronenberg benefited from the lineup change and also benefited from the defensive set by the Eagles.
“I haven’t been scoring much the last few games, but I stayed focused and tonight they gave me space from behind the three-point line and I got my shots to fall.”
In addition to Kronenberg’s 22 points, Brancato finished with 16 points, and Cunningham had 12 points.
For the Eagles, Timmond Williams led the team with 17 points, followed by Chris Brown and Evan Gutowski with 13 points each.