Wilton beats Warde in OT, advances to FCIAC semis
In a game filled with big plays, none was bigger than the one Nick Kronenberg and Reilly Bingaman made with time running out in overtime.
The Wilton and Fairfield Warde boys basketball teams were tied 77-77 in Saturday's FCIAC quarterfinal when Warde coach Ryan Swaller called a timeout with 20.9 seconds remaining. On the ensuing inbounds play, the ball went to Warde's Jeff Seganos just over the midcourt line. As Seganos dribbled left, Kronenberg stole the ball and had a clear path to the basket.
Seganos got back to defend Kronenberg, who went in for the layup but saw his shot rim out. Bingaman, though, had trailed the play and was there for the put-back basket that put Wilton ahead, 79-77, with 3.4 seconds left.
Warde, which was playing on its home court, then missed a long shot, sealing Wilton's victory and a spot in the semifinals for the second-seeded Warriors on their home court. Wilton now will face third-seed Danbury on Tuesday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.
“We were in our press package and the coach told us no fouls, try for the steal,” said Kronenberg. “I was able to poke the ball away and headed down the floor. I knew there was less than 10 seconds left so I went in hard for the layup, hoping that if I missed I may get fouled.”
Kronenberg’s basket with 51.7 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 69-69. Warde called a timeout with 17 seconds remaining but couldn’t come away with the game winner, forcing the extra four minutes.
Warde's Matt Houghton scored the first five points of overtime to give his team a 74-69 lead. Wilton still trailed 77-72 when Kyle Hyzy hit a 3-pointer with 54.8 seconds left to make it 77-75. Zayvion Eusebe then scored on a layup with 40 seconds remaining to tie the score.
“Warde gave us all we could handle today; they were playing on their home floor, which is big at playoff time, but our kids worked hard to come away with the win so we could have a home game,” said Wilton coach Joel Geriak.
“When I saw that they were holding for the last shot in regulation and overtime, I told my players don’t let number 5 (Matt Becker) or number 11 (Houghton) be the guys that beat us," added Geriak. “If someone else hit a shot, so be it; I just didn’t want whose two players to beat us. We did everything we could to stop them in the game and didn’t have much success, but we got the stop when we needed it most."
Warde, the seventh seed, got off to a good start, knocking down six 3-pointers (four from Becker and two from Houghton) in the first quarter to take a 20-16 lead. Wilton began the second quarter with a 9-0 run to go up 25-20, but two more treys by Becker and one by Seganos gave Warde a 36-32 halftime lead.
After the Mustangs scored the first three points of the second half, Wilton went on 15-0 run to go ahead 47-39. Kronenberg had 12 of those points (three baskets, two treys) and Andrew Smith added a 3-pointer.
Warde finished the quarter strong and pulled within 52-50 at the end of the period. The game remained close the entire fourth quarter, with several lead changes before Kronenberg's bucket tied the score at 69-69 and forced overtime.
"Our team didn’t give up and did a lot of little things that help you win classic games like this,” Geriak said. “We are so glad we made it to the semifinal round so we could have a home game (in the FCIAC playoffs). It will be great for the school, our fans, and the town.”
Notes: Kronenberg led the Warriors with 21 points. Hyzy added 13 points and Eusebe had 10 points. Ryan Biberon finished with nine points and Tucker Walden had eight.
Becker scored a game-high 30 points for Warde, with Houghton adding 28 points.