Shouvlin's trey lifts Wilton boys hoop to state win in 2 OTs (updated)

If you made the trek to Hartford on Tuesday night to see the Wilton High boys basketball team play its opening-round game in the Class LL state tournament, you were rewarded with an exciting, but tense victory for the Warriors.

Scott Shouvlin drained a three-pointer from the wing as time expired to give 20th-seed Wilton a 62-61 double-overtime win over host Hartford Public, the 13th seed.

The Warriors now move on to the second round and face fourth-seed Greenwich tonight at 7 in Greenwich. The Cardinals, who have beaten Wilton twice this season, defeated 29th-seed Shelton, 49-40, in another first-round game Tuesday.

But back to Wilton’s dramatic victory Tuesday night. Let's set the stage going into double overtime with the score tied at 53-53. The Owls won the tip and hit a three-pointer to take a 56-53 lead. Matt Shifrin made two foul shots, and an Eric Houska basket off a steal by Mike Bingaman gave Wilton a 57-56 lead with 1:53 to play.

Hartford Public’s Chevon Grant nailed a three-pointer to give his team the lead back at 59-57 with 1:36 left. Wilton then caught a break when Richard Jernigan missed two free throws, and the next trip down the floor Houska's basket tied the game at 59-59 with 42 seconds left.

With time winding down, an Owls player put up an open three-point shot from the corner that ended up being an air-ball. But teammate Shakeem James was there for the easy put-back basket and a 61-59 lead with 9.2 seconds to play.

After a time-out to set its offense, Wilton inbounded the ball under its own basket. Houska got the ball over the mid-court stripe and the Owls’ defense looked to trap him. Houska spotted Peter Ciaccio wide open under the basket with the clock ticking. Ciaccio could have easily put it in off the glass before the buzzer for the tie, but he saw Shouvlin open in the corner behind the three-point line. Ciaccio took a chance — to the moans of some Wilton supporters — and passed the ball outside to Shouvlin.

Shouvlin caught the ball and quickly fired his shot that found nothing but the bottom of the net. The ref signaled that the three-pointer was good, and the Wilton team and its fans celebrated.

“I was a little surprised that he passed me the ball because the coach said let's go for the tie first,” Shouvlin said. “Ciaccio had a wide-open lay-up. I was looking at the rim and I saw the ball coming at me. I knew when I let it go it was going in. This is a huge road win for us.”

Wilton got off to a poor shooting performance in the first quarter, going two for 18 from the field. Both hoops were treys from Houska, and Wilton trailed 12-6 after one quarter.

After falling behind 22-11 with 4:40 to play in the second, the Warriors got things going and finally got points from someone other than Houska. Wilton closed out the second with a 13-6 run to close the Owls’ lead to 28-24 at the half.

In the third quarter, after a Hartford Public point from the foul line, the Warriors capitalized on nine forced turnovers to put together a 15-0 run for a 39-29 lead. Hartford Public regrouped and ended the third quarter with an 11-1 run to knot the score at 40-40.

The game was tight in the fourth quarter. Shifrin hit two free throws to give Wilton a 50-47 lead with 50.2 seconds to play in regulation. The Owls’ Jernigan then hit a jumper and was fouled with 34.3 seconds left. Jernigan converted the foul shot to tie the game at 50-50.

Wilton held the ball for the final shot of regulation but had to call a time-out when Shifrin lost his footing on the court with 2.4 seconds remaining. The Warriors couldn't get a good look at the basket and the game went into overtime.

Hartford Public scored first in the overtime for a 52-50 lead. Houska nailed a three-pointer for a 53-52 Wilton lead with 1:11 on the clock. With 51 seconds to play in the first overtime Wilton was called for a foul, but Jordan Alexander could convert only one of two shots for the 53-53 tie.

Wilton again held the ball for the last shot and a chance to win at the end of the first overtime, but Ciaccio was called for a moving screen with eight seconds left. Hartford Public’s ensuing shot attempt was off the mark and the game went into double overtime.

The Owls were making Wilton work hard for every basket and rebound. Hartford Public pressed Wilton bring the ball up the court, but the Warrior guards handled the press. The Warriors did an excellent job in forcing the Owls to turn the ball over and never showed signs of quitting, even when they were down early.

“I am so happy for these kids; they played hard and gave me a great effort and they get to play another game,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak. “We got our money's worth in the game. We had a long bus ride, which got longer with a problem with the bus, which added a little stress for me, but the win makes it all worth it.

“We had some trouble early with their match-up zone defense, but we worked through it. Houska had a huge game for us and we got great all-around play from Ciaccio and Bingaman, who played hard the entire game.”

Houska led all scorers with 28 points. Shifrin finished with 13 points, going eight for 10 from the free-throw line, and Ciaccio had 10 points.

Jernigan led Hartford Public with 15 points.