Boys basketball: Warrriors rally to shock Trinity advance to FCIAC semis

The Wilton boys basketball team, down by as much as 14 points late in the third quarter, staged a late fourth-quarter comeback to shock the Trinity Catholic Crusaders, 55-52, in the quarterfinals of the FCIAC playoffs on Saturday in Fairfield.

The team never lost its focus and stayed poised to mount a comeback.

Fifth-seeded Wilton will face the top-seeded Trumbull Eagles on Tuesday night at 7:45 at Fairfield Warde High School in the semifinals. Wilton lost to Trumbull 54-50 in overtime in the regular season.

Down by six with 2:17 left in the game, back-to-back steals by the Warriors on Trinity inbounds passes under their basket cut the lead to two at 50-48 with 2:02 to play. Drew Connolly forced the first turnover, with Robbie Hermann picking up the loose ball off the floor and giving it back to Connolly, who dished the ball off to Kyle Phillips for the biggest bucket of his young career.

On the ensuing inbounds pass, Connolly stepped in front of the Trinity player and laid it in to make it a two-point game.

The Crusaders finally moved the ball into the front court and got the ball down low to one of their big men, Dutreil Contavio. This time it was Robbie Herman who came up big and blocked Contavio’s shot from behind, with the ball going out of bounds.

The inbounds pass went back to Contavio in the post, but he was called for an offensive foul — Jack Wood taking the charge — and turning the ball over to the Warriors.

The Warriors came down the floor and missed on two shot attempts. The Crusaders were able to fast break the Warriors and Peter Galgano went in for the layup for a 52-48 lead.

The rest of the game turned into the Matt Kronenberg show. The senior left the game earlier to get checked out by the trainer and had only two points prior to the final quarter. He made one of two foul shots with 47.2 seconds left, and then hit a jumper from the foul line (after a Trinity traveling call) with 30.5 seconds remaining to make it a one-point game, 52-51.

Connolly fouled Stephon McGill with 16 second left, sending him to the line for a one and one. McGill missed the free throw and Kronenberg came down with rebound and was fouled. With 14.7 seconds left, Kronenberg hit nothing but the bottom of the net, making the two free throws to put the Warriors up 53-52. Trinity came down the floor and missed a jump shot and the rebound was ripped down by Hermann, who called a timeout.

Kronenberg was fouled on the inbounds pass with 2.4 second remaining and again he found nothing but the bottom of the net with his two foul shots, putting Wilton up 55-52. Trinity tried a long heave as time expired, sending the Wilton players into a huge celebration.

“Ever since I started playing basketball I imagined me being in the situation to make a shot to win a critical game, so I felt I was ready for it and I wasn’t going to let my teammates and myself down,” said Kronenberg. “Games are all about runs or stopping runs and we stayed positive being down late. They came out of halftime with a lot of energy and pushed ahead. They gave us their good punch and we took it and punched back. A lot of players stepped up to today for us to come away with the win.”

The game got off to a fast start and it looked like it was going to be a high-scoring affair. Wilton was ahead most of the first quarter, but Trinity finished the period on a 9-1 run to have a 20-15 lead after one.

Jack Williams opened the second quarter by knocking down a two-point bucket and a 3-pointer to quickly tie the game at 20-20. Wilton went ahead 22-20 when Kyle Shifrin muscled down an offensive rebound and laid in it for two. Wilton led at the break 26-25. The Crusaders went scoreless the first five and a half minutes of the second quarter.

Trinity solved their shooting woes and opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run to take a 37-26 lead. After Williams hit a bucket, the Crusaders scored five more points for their biggest lead of the night, 42-28. Their final two points in that run came as a result of two free throws on a technical foul called on Wilton head Ccoach Joel Geriak, who was questioning a non-call for goaltending.

The Warriors refocused themselves finishing out the third period with a 6-0 run.

“I felt good that we got it under 10 going into the final quarter and things started to click,” said Geriak. “When we cut the lead to four, all I could think of was the points I cost our team with the technical. I told them (to) keep attacking the basket. The team went out and executed our game plan, gave a great effort against their big men.”

He continued, “I switched up the starting lineup a bit because I knew they were going to be physical, and I got what I asked for. I just can’t say enough about the team’s effort.  We had the glue back in the line-up. Jack Williams, Jack Wood was just being Jack Wood, Drew Connolly with key steals late, Robbie Hermann’s block and rebounds, and Matt Kronenberg’s clutch play in the end.”

Williams led the Warriors with a game-high 21 points, followed by Connolly with 16 points and Kronenberg with 11 points.

Galgano led Trinity with 16 points.