Boys basketball: Wilton moves up playoff rankings with OT win

Junior Nick Kronenberg came up big in overtime with two 3-pointers that forged the Wilton boys basketball team to a thrilling 67-65 win over the Brien McMahon Senators on Wednesday Night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

With the win, the Warriors improved to 9-5 in the FCIAC (11-6 overall) and moved up to eighth in the conference standings due to Trumbull’s loss to Trinity Catholic.

Wilton hosts Abbott Tech tonight at 7 in a non-conference tilt. The team will honor its five seniors before the start of the game.

The game was tied at 60-60 at the end of regulation.  The Senators won the overtime opening tip and Paul Louis drove to the hoop for a bucket and got fouled. Louis converted the three-point play, giving the visitors a quick 63-60 lead.

The Warriors came down the floor and Kronenberg buried a long 3-pointer to tie the game and excite the home crowd. McMahon’s Sharod Blackwell drove the lane to lay in a bucket, putting his team back up 65-63.

With 1:55 left in overtime. Kronenberg hit another three from the corner, regaining the lead for the Warriors at 66-65. McMahon missed a shot attempt next time down the floor and that’s when the overtime chess match started.

Wilton got possession with just over one minute to play and ran the clock down to 27 second before the Senators committed a foul. Scott Cunningham stepped to the line and made one of two free throws for the 67-65 lead. After a timeout, McMahon held the ball for the last shot, but the Warrior defense stood their ground and the Senators shot attempt was off the mark. Kronenberg, who was held scoreless until late in the third quarter, kept his focus and didn’t get down on himself.

“The shots weren’t falling early, but the coach always says if you get open looks at threes take them,” said Kronenberg.

Brien McMahon (7-11 overall) came into Wednesday night’s action needing one more win to qualify for states.

“Give them a lot of credit. They played much better than their record shows. They’re a big and physical team and they played up tonight, where I feel we didn’t play up to our expectations,” he said. “But I believe we have what it takes to be competitive the rest of the way, as long as we play at both ends of the court and execute the game plan.”

Neither team led by more than a few points the whole game, with the Senators holding the biggest lead to the game at seven points early in the second quarter. But the Warriors were able to knot the score at 31-31 by the halftime break.

What proved to hurt the Warriors’ chances for a easier win was the poor foul shooting. Wilton was 12-for-24 from the free-throw line, while the Senators were a perfect 11-for-11 from the line.

McMahon led 17-11 after one quarter on the strength of junior Michael Fuller, who poured in 10 first-quarter points. Wilton led briefly in the period at 6-4.

The Warriors trailed the entire second quarter, but a 3-pointer from Cunningham with the clock winding down tied the game at 31-31 at the half.

The game was close the entire third quarter, with Wilton holding a three-point lead several times in the period. The third quarter ended with the Warriors ahead 48-47.

The game was again tight in the fourth quarter, with neither team able to make a run to pull away. With 50 second left in regulation, Kronenberg went one for two from the foul line that put Wilton up 60-57.

But with 26.5 seconds left, Latrel Stewart knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the score. Wilton came down the floor but missed getting the game-winning basket, forcing overtime.

“This was a critical win for us tonight to get into the FCIAC playoffs. I don’t care how we make it, we need to just get in,” said Wilton Head Coach Joel Geriak. “We switched up our defense a couple of times tonight to try keep their big men from killing us on the boards. Yeah, we struggle against bigger more physical teams, but then we have to go out and play good fundamental basketball against those teams.”

Antonio Brancato finished as the high-point man for the Warriors with 20 points, with 14 coming in the second half, followed by Cunningham with 15 points, 12 off four 3-pointers. Kronenberg had 10 points, Kyle Shifrin had nine points and Kyle Maatallah added eight points.