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After battling back from a 10-point deficit early in the game and holding a one-point lead going into the final quarter, the Wilton High boys basketball team took it on the chin in the fourth quarter against visiting Bridgeport Central.

The Hilltoppers outscored the Warriors 25-13 in the final eight minutes to take a 81-70 win on Thursday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

The Warriors (8-5 overall, 6-4 FCIAC) showed a lot of team hustle and toughness but it was no match for the very athletic, tall and versatile Hilltoppers (7-3 in the conference). Central played strong under the boards, getting several second- and third-chance baskets, along having the ability to knock down ‘threes’.

“Give them a lot of credit. They are a talented team, but these are the games we have to win when we have the chance,” said senior Scott Cunningham. “We fought hard but we just didn’t play to the same level of intensity as we did against Ridgefield (in Tuesday’s win). We overcame their early lead, but in the end they took the game from us. It was great to beat Ridgefield, but this game meant in the standings for us as we were tied with them and now they hold the tiebreaker in a close race for a playoff spot.”

The loss dropped Wilton to ninth in the FCIAC playoff standings.

The game was tied at 6-6 with 5:26 left to play in the first quarter when Central went on a 19-9 run to end the period ahead 25-15. The Hilltoppers dominated in the paint with short jumpers or putback baskets for the 10-point lead.

In the second quarter Wilton head coach Joel Geriak found success subbing in some players, as Ryan Phillips, Ryan Schriber and Kyle Hyzy took the floor, giving the Warriors some energy.

A Cunningham basket off a Phillips steal pulled the Warriors to within three at 30-27 and an Antonio Brancato bucket with 1:22 remaining in the first half knotted the score at 32-32. The teams traded baskets, with Central up 35-34 with time running out in the period.

With only a few ticks left on the clock, Brancato fired up a long shot that was short but fell right in the hands of Robbie Hermann, who quickly put it off the glass before the buzzer for the 36-35 Wilton lead.

It was raining 3-pointers early in the third quarter and afte4r Cunningham’s layup off another steal, the Warriors had their biggest lead at 49-42 midway through the period. Wilton maintained the lead the whole quarter, but Central closed to within one, 57-56, by quarter’s end.

Wilton held a one-point lead, 60-59 with seven minutes to play, when Central sophomore Travis Griffins drained four 3-pointers for his only points of the game to lead the Hilltoppers to a 73-63 lead with 4:30 left.

Two buckets by Brancato got the Warriors to within 73-67, but Central finished out the game outscoring the Warriors 8-3 for the 81-70 win. Central was aided by a Wilton flagrant foul in which they converted the two free throws and got the ball.

With eight seconds left Wilton’s Phillips and Central’s Zach Williams got into a shoving match, which resulted in both players being ejected from the game and both will miss their respective team’s next game due to league rules.

“We just didn’t come to play tonight. They didn’t follow the game plan, we didn’t box out under the boards and we couldn’t jump with them,” said Geriak. “We also can’t give up 81 points and expect to win. We changed up our defense a couple of times and had some success, but they did a good job adjusting to it and beat us.”

Cunningham had a game-high 24 points for Wilton, his second game in a row with 24 points. Brancato finished with 15 points, Nick Kronenberg added 14 points and Phillips had six points.

Central had four players in double figures with Raj Walker leading the way with 18 points, followed by Dajon Fulton with 16 points, and Griffins and Williams with 12 each.