Eusebe leads Wilton to Senior Night win
Zayvion Eusebe and Nick Kronenberg made sure that they and their fellow seniors on the Wilton High boys basketball team ended the regular season with a win on Senior Night.
Eusebe scored a career-high 27 points and Kronenberg added 13 as the Warriors beat Fairfield Ludlowe, 75-58, on Thursday evening at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.
The victory, coupled with Danbury's loss to Trumbull, moved Wilton up to the second seed for the FCIAC playoffs. The Warriors (16-4 overall, 13-3 FCIAC) will play seventh-seed Fairfield Warde in the quarterfinals on Saturday (2 p.m.) at Warde (which is hosting all four quarterfinals).
If Wilton wins that game, it will play Tuesday night's semifinal at home — the Warriors are hosts for the conference semifinals and finals (Feb. 28).
On Thursday night, Eusebe got the start and made the most of his opportunity.
“The coach told us before the game that it was going to be the seniors that were the ones to bring home the win,” said Eusebe, who scored 22 of his points in the opening half. “I’ve been playing with these guys since fourth grade and when I gave my mom the flowers during the senior presentation it all hit me, but I didn’t let the emotions of the night affect my play. I didn’t feel the pressure of the night; I looked at it as an opportunity and cherished the moment.”
The teams combined for 19 3-pointers in the first half, 10 for Ludlowe and nine for Wilton. Eusebe hit five treys in the the first half for the Warriors and Kronenberg knocked down three.
Wilton’s only lead of the first quarter was at 3-2, as the Falcons were ahead by as many as 11 points in the period. A buzzer-beater by Andrew Smith pulled Wilton to within four, 25-21, at the end of one period.
Eusebe's bucket early in the second quarter gave Wilton a 30-28 lead, and the home team stayed in front the rest of the game. Eusebe had 11 points in the second period, helping Wilton take a 47-40 lead at halftime.
The frantic pace of the first half seemed to take a toll on both teams to start the second half: Shots were falling short and the scoring pace slowed down dramatically.
Ludlowe (9-11 overall, 7-9 FCIAC) was able to get its deficit down to three points twice in the period before the Warriors closed on an 8-0 run to lead 57-46 through three quarters.
Wilton was up by as many as 22 points in the final quarter (68-46), until head coach Joel Geriak started taking his seniors off the court so they could get a round of applause from the home crowd.
“The seniors led the way tonight and I’m happy that they came away winners on Senior Night,” Geriak said. “I didn’t think I was going to play them as much as I did, but they couldn’t miss in the first half, so I wasn’t taking them out.
“Eusebe really carried us in the first half and he couldn’t miss,” Geriak added. “I’m sure it was a little frustrating for Ludlowe tonight; they had 10 three-pointers in the first half and were down by seven.”
Now, the Warriors will turn their attention to the postseason.
“I’ve seen our team get better as the season went on — the speed of our play, crashing the boards, and finding the open man were the keys to many of our victories — but the postseason is a whole different ball game,” Geriak said. “The keys for us in the playoffs will be to play smart basketball, don’t turn the ball over, and excel in our game plan.” added Geriak.
Notes: Patrick Kilbride led Ludlowe with 18 points. Kilbride made four 3-pointers in the first half.