Wilton boys hoop team tops Norwalk, qualifies for states

Coming into Friday night’s game, the Wilton High boys basketball team and Norwalk were two of the five teams tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the FCIAC with 5-6 conference records. The winning team would technically hold a two-game lead over the losing team due to the head-to-head tie-breaker.

Give the advantage to the Warriors, as they came away with a highly contested 60-56 win over Norwalk at the Zeoli Field House.

The game was close the entire way, with Norwalk having its biggest lead in the first quarter at 12-5 and Wilton’s largest lead at 58-52 with 35 seconds to play in the game. For the most part neither team could get more than a basket lead on its opponent.

Norwalk got most of its points either in the paint or from close range, while the Warriors used seven three-pointers to spark their offense.

“This was a big win against a good team,” said Wilton co-captain Matt Shifrin, who led the Warriors with 20 points, including four first-half three-pointers.

Shifrin played the entire game, with intense effort at both ends of the court, and didn’t let the tight game affect his play. “You don’t think about it; you just keep working at it and stay focused," he said. "Our fourth-quarter rebounding was key for us and helped lead the way for the win."

The Warriors connected on two baskets at the end of the first quarter to trail 12-9 after one. The second quarter saw the lead go back and forth. The Bears held the biggest lead, by four points at 25-21, but Wilton finished the first half on a 7-2 run to carry a 28-27 lead into the break.

Norwalk opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 33-28 lead. Wilton answered right back with treys from Eric Houska and Scott Shouvlin to regain a one-point lead at 34-33. The teams traded baskets in the quarter and the Warriors maintained a 43-42 lead going into the final eight minutes of play.

After Norwalk hit a basket to open the fourth quarter and take a 44-43 lead, the Warriors scored the next time down the floor with two free throws from Peter Ciaccio to regain the lead and then never trailed again.

The game was tied at 52-52 with 2:21 to play. Wilton then got a basket from Michael Bingaman and two free throws apiece from Shifrin and Shouvlin to go ahead 58-53 with 35 seconds left in the game. The two teams traded foul shots to close the scoring.

The win moves Wilton's overall record to 8-6 (6-6 in the conference) and qualifies the Warriors for the state tournament.

“Qualifying for the states was one of our team goals this year, which we can now mark off as accomplished,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak. “I made the pre-game focus qualifying for states for the team and not the importance of just this game.

"I wanted to get the win and check off one of our goals tonight.  Sure, the win helps our conference post-season chances, also. We shot well from the floor and the foul line (17 for 22), and when we do, we’ll be in the game."

In addition to Shifrin’s 20 points, Ciaccio finished with 13 points, Shouvlin had nine points and Bingaman and Houska added eight points each. Bingaman also battled hard for eight rebounds, with several key boards in the fourth quarter.

Roy Kane Jr. of Norwalk led all scorers with 26 points.