Wilton falls to Norwalk in FCIAC boys hoop semis (updated)

The Norwalk Bears got a huge fourth quarter from their big man in the middle, 6'6" senior Roy Kane Jr., to open what was a close game after three quarters and beat Wilton, 69-55, in an FCIAC boys basketball semifinal Wednesday night at Fairfield Warde.

Kane Jr. scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the final quarter and also blocked four shots.

It looked as though seventh-seed Wilton would go into the fourth quarter down by three points, but then Norwalk, the third seed, turned the ball over with 5.8 seconds to play. Two non-shooting fouls on Norwalk gave the Warriors ball under the Bears basket with 0.6 seconds to go. The inbound pass was lobbed to Lucas Savoie in the paint, and, in mid-air, Savoie one-handed the ball into the basket to cut the Norwalk lead to 43-42.

Could the energy and excitement of that final play of the third quarter erase the Warriors' difficulties — turnovers, breaking the Norwalk press, and poor rebounding at both ends of the floor — through the first three quarters and push Wilton to a victory and a first-ever spot in the conference championship game?

That answer was no.

Wilton’s woes continued and intensified in the final eight minutes, as Kane Jr. and his teammates put the game away. The Bears were able to attack the rim for baskets or get fouled and go to the line for points. In addition, Wilton's turnover and rebounding woes continued and sealed the Warriors' fate.

Wilton was within 57-50 midway through the final quarter, but when Kane Jr. went hard to the hoop and was fouled, the Bears lead quickly grew to 60-50 following the three-point play. Norwalk slowed the pace in the final minutes and still managed to increase its lead, going ahead 65-50 with under two minutes left.

"Give them the credit for coming out and getting the win," said Wilton's Matt Shifrin about the Bears. "They came out with a lot of energy and they clearly out-played us. We didn’t get any stops on defense and we didn’t box them out under the boards."

Shifrin opened the game with a three-pointer, but Norwalk answered right back with a three of its own. Both teams pushed the ball up the court in the fast-paced first quarter, which ended with Norwalk ahead 16-14.

Norwalk led the entire second quarter until Shifrin drained another three-pointer with 1:47 to play in the first half. The Warriors used good ball movement to find the open man, with Michael Bingaman getting the ball to Shifrin.

Norwalk then finished the quarter with a basket for a 27-25 halftime lead.

Scott Shouvlin got the bounce on a three-pointer to open the third quarter and give the Warriors a short-lived 28-27 lead, as two free throws by Kane Jr. put the Bears in front again. But Shouvlin came right back, going one-for-two from the line and then hitting a basket for Wilton’s last lead of the night at 31-29.

A Richie Williams basket and a free throw tied the game at 36-36 with 3:58 left in the third quarter, but Norwalk took control in the final period.

“They finished in the fourth quarter, which gave them the win,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak. “We did the same thing to them when we beat them in the regular season, finish strong.

"They are a very talented team and it’s difficult to shut down several players," added Geriak. "A. J. Jerome (15 points, 11 rebounds) killed us tonight; he stepped up and had a big game scoring and on the boards and was the X factor for them.

"Their defense forced us further out on the perimeter and we forced up some deep three-pointers. We both ran the floor well, but they did a better job in transition and they made the big plays tonight when they needed them. I’m very happy for the way my team played tonight and this season; the team played hard, never quit; we just didn’t execute well.”

Shifrin led Wilton with 18 points, Shouvlin finished with 11 points and Savoie had eight points.

The Warriors will now compete in the Class L state tournament, which gets under way next week. Wilton, seeded 10th, will face 23rd-seed East Haven (11-9) in a first-round game Tuesday (March 10) at 7 p.m. in Wilton.