Wilton boys hoop team handles Harding

Judging by the large home crowd, one way for those hoping to get their minds off snow and cold weather is to go and watch the Wilton High boys basketball team.

In front of a packed Zeoli Field House, the host Warriors defeated Harding-Bridgeport, 67-53, on Friday night.

The victory was important in terms of jockeying for FCIAC playoff position. Wilton is now 8-4 in the conference (10-4 overall), and Harding is 7-6 in the conference (7-8 overall).

Both teams connected on three-pointers to open the game but then went cold. Harding closed the first quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 15-10 lead.

From the midpoint of the second quarter, however, it was pretty much all Wilton. With their team trailing 20-17, Matt Shifrin and Scott Shouvlin took command of the Warrior ship. Shifrin put in a layup and was fouled, and when he hit the free throw the game was tied at 20-20.

The Warriors then embarked on a 17-0 run compliments of Shifrin (nine points) and Shouvlin (eight points), to take a 37-20 lead. A three-pointer by Harding’s TJ Killings ended his team's four-minute drought, as Wilton led 37-23 at halftime.

“I knew when I saw the huge crowd that energy for my team wasn’t going to be a problem tonight,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak.“They showed me energy and gave me a complete game. They played well on both ends of the floor and played together as a team.

"They knew this was an important game for them to win and they had a little extra incentive tonight to go out and get the win," added Geriak. "Whoever I put out there, they give me a great effort and you can’t ask for anything more.”

Geriak was talking about the role players who have been vital this season, and not just with scoring. Whether it's Michael Bingaman blocking shots; Miles Elmasry coming off the bench and contributing with rebounds and good defense; Lucas Savoie fighting for a rebound or getting a basket on a reverse layup; or Richie Williams bringing the ball up the court and setting up teammates, the Warriors continue to get the strong play from a variety of sources.

Harding opened the second half with four points to cut its deficit to 37-27, but once again Shifrin and Shouvlin were there to answer with baskets. Play got a little chippy late in the third quarter, when Richie Williams took a hard foul driving the lane and a Harding player was called for a technical foul on the play. Williams sank all four free throws and the Warriors had a 57-38 lead entering the final eight minutes.

Harding played better in the fourth quarter but could not seriously dent Wilton's lead.

Shifrin led the Warriors with 23 points, including 17 in the first half.

"It was great to get a win at home on a Friday night; we haven’t been here on a Friday the last few weeks,” said Shifrin. “Tonight’s win was critical for the FCIAC playoffs. We had a good practice yesterday and we came out ready to play.

"The seniors on the team know what it takes to win," continued Shifrin. "We are all very conditioned to run the floor the entire game and we never give up."

Shouvlin finished with 14 points, while Bingaman had 10 points and Richie Williams and Savoie added eight points each.

Notes: The game began late due to a delayed arrival by the Presidents.

In the junior varsity game, the Warriors overcame a 10-point deficit late the final quarter to come away with a win.