Wilton storms back, beats Xavier in state tourney
Through one quarter, the Xavier boys basketball team was on pace to score 104 points.
The Falcons fell 47 points short.
Following a woeful start that led to a 16-point deficit, Wilton rallied to beat 19th-seed Xavier, 67-57, in a Division II state tournament second-round game Wednesday evening at the Zeoli Field House. The third-seeded Warriors (18-5) will now get another home game when they play sixth-seed New Britain in the quarterfinals Friday.
Even though his team was playing for the first time in eight days since losing to Danbury in the conference semifinals, Wilton coach Joel Geriak was hoping his players would shake off any rust as quickly and efficiently as a wet golden retriever drying off.
Instead, the Warriors' 1-3-1 zone was shredded by Xavier's Stephen Kohs and KJ Grisham, who combined for five 3-pointers in the opening quarter, which ended with the Falcons ahead 26-10 and Wilton center Ryan Biberon sidelined after two early fouls.
"More than a little," Geriak said when asked if he was nervous after the first quarter. "We just came out flat. We didn't come out with any energy."
Xavier's torrid shooting led Geriak to switch his defense to man-to-man, and the Warriors benefited from the added intensity on both ends of the floor.
The Falcons, who had beaten 14th-seed Greenwich, 56-48, in a first-round game Tuesday night, were limited to four points in the second quarter — two fewer than Wilton's Zayvion Eusebe, who came off the bench to score six points and help Wilton pull in front, 30-25, by halftime.
"My job is to put the ball in the hoop and provide a spark," Eusebe said. "That's what I was trying to do tonight. I knew we needed to score some points in the second quarter."
"I mixed up the lineup a little and put some smaller guys in, and we chipped away at their lead in the second quarter and went ahead," Geriak said. "Then we went back to following the game plan that we wanted to use at the start of the game."
More cold shooting by Xavier and three 3-pointers from Nick Kronenberg widened Wilton's advantage to 47-38 going into the final quarter.
"We got off to a great start but couldn't sustain it," said Xavier coach Michael Kohs, whose team ended the season with an 11-11 record. "That's kind of been our MO this season. Last night we were consistent the whole game, but tonight we struggled to score after the first quarter."
The Warriors pushed their lead to 17 points, 56-39, before Xavier went on a 7-0 run and Geriak called timeout. Grisham's long 3-pointer got the Falcons within 61-54 with 1:01 left, but Wilton made enough free throws to close out the victory.
"They're a good team and they can put points on the board in a hurry," Kohs said about Wilton. "They have a number of guys who can knock down threes, so they are hard to defend."
Notes: Kronenberg paced Wilton with 19 points. Kyle Hyzy added 15 points and Eusebe finished with 11.
Grisham scored a game-high 23 points for Xavier, including 13 in the final quarter. Stephen Kohs had 13 points, with 12 of those coming in the opening period.