Boys hoop: Wilton tops New Canaan, helps FCIAC chances
That energy that went missing in its last game, a loss to sub-.500 Staples on Monday afternoon?
The Wilton boys basketball team rediscovered it on Wednesday night at the Zeoli Field House.
The Warriors got off to a fast start and went on to beat New Canaan, 60-47 — a victory that bolstered Wilton's chances of qualifying for the eight-team FCIAC playoffs, which start next Saturday, Feb. 27.
Going into its final three games of the regular season, Wilton is now 8-5 in the conference (11-6 overall) and tied with Westhill for fifth in the FCIAC overall standings.
On Wednesday night, junior captain Jack Williams (game-high 25 points) hit two three-pointers and scored eight points in the opening period, staking the Warriors to a 14-4 lead at the end of the first eight minutes.
“I kind of lost my confidence over the last several games, but the energy from the fans and the team’s defense helped me focus and have a good night,” said Williams, Wilton's leading scorer this season. “We didn’t play with the energy level and intensity we needed against Staples, so we put that game behind us, had a good practice yesterday, and came out tonight and did what we needed to do."
When the Warriors weren't draining three-pointers, they drove the lane and attacked the basket. The result was a double-digit lead for most of the second quarter, with New Canaan getting to within eight points midway through the period.
With Wilton ahead 21-10 late in the quarter, head coach Joel Geriak inserted the team's three-point specialist, freshman Nick Kronenberg. On their first possession with Kronenberg on the floor, the Warriors got him the ball in the corner and he immediately nailed a three-pointer.
After Drew Connolly drove to the hoop and scored, nicely protecting the ball from a defender, Kronenberg connected for his second trey to give the Warriors a 29-12 lead at halftime.
Wilton was doing its best best to limit turnovers, look for open shots and play stellar defense, limiting the Rams to just one shot on most of their trips down the floor.
The Warriors continued to thrive at the start of the third quarter, building a 20-point lead, 34-14, with 5:40 left in the period. But New Canaan (4-14), which has played many close conference games this season despite its record, wasn't going away. The Rams went on an 8-0 run to cut the Wilton lead to 12, at 34-22.
That started a series of spurts. After Wilton responded with a 9-0 run to take its biggest lead of the night, 45-24, New Canaan answered with two three-pointers to close the third quarter down 45-30.
After Williams followed his own miss for a basket to start the final quarter, New Canaan outscored the Warriors, 11-4, to get within eight points, 49-41, with just over four minutes to play.
But when the Warriors cleared out the lane for Matt Kronenberg to drive to the hoop for a bucket and a foul, they got back on track. The junior guard sank the free throw, giving Wilton an 11-point advantage and taking the wind out of New Canaan's sails.
“It’s great to come away with a win against New Canaan, so it makes my post-game days enjoyable,” said Geriak, who works in the New Canaan school system. “I see these kids every day in school and we have good clean fun ribbing each other about the games.
"The win was important for us after the loss [to Staples] on Monday," added Geriak. "I don’t know what it was; we just didn’t come out with the energy you need to get a win. No team in this conference is an easy win; you have to go out and earn them. Tonight we had several chances to put New Canaan away and we didn’t, but fortunately we had a big lead.”
Geriak praised the all-around efforts he recevied from James Maloney, Jack Wood and Michael Brown. Wood and Brown drew the assignment of face-guarding the Rams' top player, Tyler Sweeny, and the duo held Sweeny to just two points in the first half. Maloney, meanwhile, played aggressively under the board at both ends of the floor.
In addition to Williams' 25 points, Wilton got 14 points from Matt Kronenberg and 13 points from Connolly.