Wilton opens season with 59-48 win over Pomperaug

Overcoming some opening-game rust and an early deficit, the Wilton High boys basketball team began the season with a 59-48 non-conference victory over Pomperaug on Saturday evening at the Zeoli Field House.

The Warriors had Pomperaug backed into a corner several times but couldn't deliver a true knockout punch.

“We just couldn’t put our foot on their throat and put them away,” Wilton head coach Joel Geriak said. “We clearly didn’t play the way I expected, but I’m happy we came away with a win. The defense played great tonight, but it’s on the other side of the court [where] we need to get better.”

Geriak, whose team graduated most of its starters and 75% of its scoring from last season, is going to use a different formula in 2018-19.

“The team knows that we are going to use a rotational approach to the starting lineup based on how we match up against each opponent,” Geriak said. “We have some height on the front line this year and have outside players with different strengths, and we’ll use them to our best ability.”

Pomperaug came out of the gate knocking down three-pointers for an early 9-2 lead. Making his first varsity start for Wilton, Andrew Smith responded with two three-pointers and a two-point basket to pull the Warriors within one at 11-10.

A Nick Kronenberg three-pointer with 3:01 left in the first quarter gave Wilton its first lead of the game at 13-11, and the Warriors were ahead 15-13 at the end of the first period.

Zayvion Eusebe came off the bench for Wilton in the second quarter and scored two quick fast-break baskets off turnovers to push the lead to six. Pomperaug battled back to whittle its deficit to one point before the Warriors sank three-of-four free throws to take a 26-22 halftime lead.

Wilton then dominated the third quarter, outscoring Pomperaug, 19-7, to go ahead 45-29 entering the final eight minutes. Smith (two three-pointers) and Eusebe each scored six points to fuel the Warriors' scoring.

With Michael Stirk hitting three three-pointers, Pomperaug got within eight points twice in the final three minutes. But the Warriors slowed the pace and forced Pomperaug to foul. Wilton converted four-of-six free throws to seal its 11-point victory.

Pomperaug's Stirk led all scorers with a game-high 20 points that included six three-pointers.

For the Warriors, Smith led the way with 17 points (five three-pointers). Eusebe followed with 15 points, and Tucker Walden added seven points and Ryan Biberon had six points for Wilton.

Notes: The Warriors play conference road games next week against New Canaan (Wednesday) and Norwalk (Friday) before heading to Florida for three games at the KSA Events Holiday Tournament (Dec. 26-30) in Orlando.

“I think it will be great to see some different teams and some tough competition that I hope will make us a better team,” Geriak said. “The tournament [committee] matches up teams based on [school] size, number of seniors on the team, and several other factors. I think it should be a great experience for the team.”