Wilton beats Ludlowe in FCIAC boys hoop playoffs (updated)

The Wilton High boys basketball team’s motto should be never count us out.

After the Warriors closed the regular season with two losses, the team's coaching staff drew up a game plan for Saturday's FCIAC quarterfinal game and the team went out and executed it perfectly.

Wilton, the seventh seed, knocked off second-seed Fairfield Ludlowe, 56-45, at Ludlowe to advance to the conference's final four. The Warriors (15-6) will now face third-seed Norwalk in the semifinals on Tuesday at Fairfield Warde. Norwalk (16-5) defeated sixth-seed Bassick in another opening-round playoff game Saturday.

The quarterfinal was the second meeting between Wilton and Ludlowe in the past week. The Warriors lost to Ludlowe, 56-40, last Monday night in the penultimate game of the regular season.

"They really took it to us last time so we knew we had to make some changes and shoot better this time around,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak. “We looked to accomplish two things: Shut down Matthew Doyle and go right at Chad Peterson and get him in foul trouble. Doyle can put a lot of points on the board, and Peterson is one of the top defenders in the league."

Scott Shouvlin drew the assignment of guarding Doyle, the Falcons' 6'4" point guard, and held him to just two points in the first half and nine overall. From the start, Shouvlin’s eyes were focused right at the center of Doyle’s chest and stayed there the entire game.

"My job was to shut him (Doyle) down as best I could. He hurt us last time and we didn’t want that to happen again,” said Shouvlin. “It is extra rewarding to come back here and redeem ourselves. We knew we were a better team than how we played them on Monday. We worked hard this week in practice to come out and get the win."

The game started with each team connecting on a three-pointer. The two teams battled up and down the court, with Ludlowe capitalizing on five Wilton turnovers to lead 19-10 after the first quarter.

The first points in the second quarter came from the foul line, giving the Falcons their biggest lead of the game at 22-11. But Wilton's Matt Shifrin started heating up and netted 10 points in the quarter to draw the Warriors to within three, 28-25, at the half. Shifrin had two three-pointers during that stretch.

The Warriors came out of the break with Shifrin staying hot and getting scoring help from Shouvlin. Shifrin’s three-pointer tied the game, and Shouvlin’s three-pointer gave the Warriors their first lead of the game at 31-28 with 6:05 left in the third quarter.

Shifrin (10 points) and Shouvlin (five points) accounted for all of the Wilton scoring in the third quarter, as the Warriors outscored Ludlowe, 15-3, and built a 40-31 lead at the end of the period. Darren Lee (16 points) hit a three-pointer with 3:02 left in the period for the Falcons' only points of the third quarter.

The Warriors continued their great defensive play in the final quarter, and Ludlowe couldn’t get any closer than seven points. Doyle hit a three-pointer for the Falcons with 2:22 to play to make the score 53-45, but Ludlowe did not score again.

Richie Williams stole the ball with 1:45 to play, and after the Warriors hit three-of-four foul shots they held the ball for the final 35 seconds as the crowd of faithful Wilton fans cheered.

With his team down early Geriak could have switched up the defense, yet he decided (correctly) to give it a chance to work. Wilton also wasn't getting shots to fall in the opening half but found other ways to stay competitive — an effort characterized by Michael Bingaman grabbing several of his 11 rebounds and Lucas Savoie going after a loose ball and knocking it out of bounds off Ludlowe player to give the Warriors possession.

Shifrin finished with a game-high 25 points, including four three-pointers.

“Our entire coaching staff works hard and made adjustments to our game plan for us to come out and beat our opponent today,” said Shifrin. “Joel (Geriak) is a players' coach ... and it's great we have him. He takes our input and communicates clearly what we need to do."

Shouvlin and Bingaman added 10 points apiece for Wilton and Savoie had seven points.