Boys basketball: Warriors win shootout in tourney final

Wilton boys basketball head coach Joel Geriak knew that it was going to take more than the 62 points the Warriors scored in the first game of their Holiday Tournament to bring home the championship trophy.

He just didn’t think it would take 91 points to do it.

The Warriors (3-1) raised the hardware with a 91-79 win over the Kolbe Cathedral Cougars (4-1) on Friday evening to win the annual tourney at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

The win checked off the first goal of the season for the Warriors.

Geriak was hoping his team could keep the Cougars scoring in the 70s, but the visitors had plenty of offensive weapons to force the Warriors to up their game.

After three quarters of play, Geriak’s game plan looked right on target but both teams went of a fourth-quarter frenzy, with Kolbe scoring 31 points in the final eight minutes while the Warriors scored 29.

Twenty of Wilton’s 29 points in the final period came from the foul line, as they were 20-for-24 from the free-throw line.

“We came into the game looking to take care of the ball, control the defensive boards, contain their best scorer, Jordan Senior, and keep them around 70 points,” said Geriak. “Well, we only turned the ball over six times, we held Senior in check, but we gave them too many second-chance baskets and we didn’t (hit) the scoring goal. But are guys stayed composed and won the game for us on the free-throw line.

“We got off to a slow start and we were forcing things. I told them to attack the rim and not just settle for 3-pointers and, after we settled in, our offense was in scoring mode.”

As the coach said, Wilton came out slow and the Cougars jumped out to a 15-8 lead midway into the first quarter. The Warrior drew to within three, 18-15, by quarter’s end. Both teams used the 3-pointer to fuel their offense, as they both hit three treys each.

With just one minute gone in the second quarter, Wilton pressed the ball and created a steal. Robbie Herman converted the steal into a bucket to tie the game at 20-20.

The second quarter saw the game tied three times and there were six lead changes. With the game tied at 33-33 late in the period, two 3-pointers by Nick Kronenburg and a free throw from Herman closed out the scoring in the first half with the Warriors ahead 40-33.

Wilton opened the second half with a bucket from Scott Cunningham to increase the lead to nine points, but Kolbe also came out of the break firing and went on a 5-0 run to cut the Warrior lead to four points. The Warriors weathered the storm and Cunningham got the hot hand as his seven points, along with a 3-pointer from Kyle Phillips and four points from Antonio Brancato, pushed the lead to 56-43.

Wilton led 62-48 after three quarters.

Four points from the free-throw line from Brancato and another three from Phillips put the Warriors ahead 69-48 to start the final period. Kolbe got as close as 10 points, 83-73, late in the fourth quarter, but Wilton was a perfect eight-for-eight from the free-throw line down the stretch, two from Cunningham, two from Kyle Maatallah, and four from Kronenburg.

Cunningham finished the night with a game-high 28 points and was named tournament MVP.

“It’s great to win this tournament and achieve our first goal of the season,” said Cunningham, who knew there were several aspects of his game that he needed to work on during the off-season.

“Last year I was just a corner guy coming off the bench looking for the open three. I knew I had to become a more complete player, playing under control, looking to drive to the basket, handle the ball better and not force things.”

Cunningham had 22 points through the first three quarters and was held scoreless for most of the final period.

“They switched defenders on me, but it felt great that I could trust my teammates to pick up the scoring and not have me try too much. We were able to break their press with long inbounds passes, which was something we worked on in practice. We stayed focused when they looked to get back in the game, as we played as a unit.”

In addition to Cunningham’s 28 points, Brancato finished with 15 points, Maatallah had 14 points, Kronenburg hit for 12 points, and Phillips had nine points on three 3-pointers.

Sophomore Tucker Walden came off the bench and had three layup baskets for six points.

Kyle Federici led Kolbe with 26 points.