Boys basketball: Wilton buries Rams with big second half

In its previous four games, the Wilton High boys basketball team had run out to big early leads and had the games in the bag by halftime.

On Friday night at New Canaan, it took the Warriors a little longer to put the game away, thanks to a great first-half effort by New Canaan.

The Rams took Wilton out of its game early on with some great defense, and were down by only two points, 22-20, with 20 seconds left in the first half.

Wilton closed out the first half with four points to lead 26-20 at halftime, and then scored the first 14 points of the second half to blow the game open, en route to a 72-42 victory.

Wilton is now 6-0 on the season. Friday’s win was the fourth time in six games the Warriors have won by 30 points or more.
Head coach Joel Geriak said the Warriors needed to open up the game in the second half, and that's what they did.
“We were winning but it was playing their game and we didn’t want to do that,” said Geriak, whose team came into the game averaging 78 points per game. “So in the second half our goal was to come out and push tempo, takes the shots that are there and not try to force them like we did earlier. The kids started trusting each other and Kyle Maatallah had a great second half.”
Maatallah, one of the many talented contributors off the Wilton bench, led the team with 16 points, including 13 points in the fourth quarter. He also had a team-high two 3-pointers.

Wilton also got a season-high 15 points from Jack Williams, while Matt Kronenberg hit for 13 points and had three assists. Drew Connolly had nine point, six rebounds and four assists. Joe Pozzi had five points and Kyle Shifrin four points and six rebounds.

For the Rams, Tyler Sweeney scored 20 points and had a team-high seven rebounds, while James Crovatto had 15 points, including three 3-pointers.

Wilton led after a low-scoring first quarter, 11-5, and was held to only one 3-pointer as the Rams’ played an aggressive man-to-man defense that allowed few good looks. The Warriors also played aggressively on defense, holding the Rams without a field goal for the first 5:40 of the game.

Wilton’s lead grew to 16-9 in the second quarter, but when Luke Crawford scored on a backdoor cut (Nick Cravatto assist) and James Crovatto nailed a 3-pointer, New Canaan was within two, 16-14. After Nick Kronenberg answered with a 3-pointer from the corner for Wilton, a short jumper by Crawford and two free throws by Sweeney, after an offensive rebound, had the lead down to 19-18 with 1:29 left in the first half.

Wilton quickly pushed the ball the other way, with Matt Kronenberg dishing to Williams for a corner 3-pointer to make it 22-18. Sweeney again tallied two points (on free throws) off an offensive rebound to make it 22-20 with 25 seconds left in the half.

But four Matt Kronenberg free throws, sandwiched around a New Canaan turnover, in the final 17 seconds made it 26-20 at the half.

Wilton switched to a trapping zone to open the third quarter, which not only shut down the Rams’ offense but opened the floor up for a more wide-open game better suited for the Warriors’ style of play.

New Canaan had seven or eight empty trips to open the second half, as Wilton reeled off a 14-0 run to lead 40-20. The lead was 16 points, 47-31, after three quarters. The Rams had more turnovers (7) than field goals (4) in the quarter.

“We got wider, spread the floor more and made them extend their defense so we could get to the lane more,” said Geriak, who tipped his hat to New Canaan head coach Danny Melzer for how the Rams took Wilton out of its game in the first half.

“Danny does a great job coaching. He’ll have this program turned around shortly,” he said. “No matter what kind of team he has, he’s going to keep it close and make you battle for everything.”

"We played really well in the first half and executed our game plan basically to a T. In the second half, they took control and outplayed us. The disappointing thing for me was that they outscrapped us. They wore us down," said coach Melzer. "They’re good. They’re undefeated for a reason. They play very well together, they’ve got a ton of guys who can shoot, and they handle the ball real well.

He continued, "I thought we did some good things out there tonight. We’ve got to learn how to sustain that for 32 minutes. The third quarter has been rough for us pretty much all year. Even in our win against Greenwich, we gave up the lead in the third quarter. We’ve got to be better with putting a full game together."

For the game, Wilton was 27-for-50 from the floor (54%) and 8-for-21 on 3-pointers (38%). In the second half, the Warriors shot 64% (18-for-28). They were 10-for-14 at the line.

Seven different Warriors hit 3-pointers.

The Rams were 12-for-36 on field goal attempts (33%) and 4-for-18 on 3-pointers. They hit 14 of 21 free throw.

Wilton 72, New Canaan 42

WILTON (6-0; 3-0 FCIAC): Matt Kronenberg 4 4-4 13; Sean Breslin 0 0-0 0; Kyle Shifrin 2 0-0 4; Drew Connolly 4 0-0 9; Jack Wood 1 0-0 2; Kyle Phillips 1 0-2 3; Kyle Maatallah 7 0-0 16; Scott Cunningham 0 2-2 2; Nick Kronenberg 1 0-0 3; Jack Williams 6 2-4 15; Joe Pozzi 1 2-2 5; Ryan Schriber 0 0-0 0; Robbie Hermann 0 0-0 0; Jackson Cote 0 0-0 0.

NEW CANAAN (1-6; 1-2 FCIAC): Jake Sloane 0 0-0 0; Nick Crovatto 0 0-0 0; Charlie Grow 0 0-0 0; James Crovatto 6 0-0 15; Tim Russo 0 1-2 1; Tyler Sweeney 4 11-15 20; Austin Bell 0 0-0 0; Stephen Wronski 0 0-0 0; Luke Crawford 2 2-4 6; Jack Richardson 0 0-0 0; Matt Brand 0 0-0 0.

3-point field goals: W — Mattallah 2, Phillips, Williams, Nick Kronenberg, Matt Kronenberg, Connolly, Pozzi; NC — J. Crovatto 3, Sweeney.