Wilton withstands Darien comeback attempt

Tucker Walden launches a shot in Wilton's win over Darien. — GretchenMcMahonPhotography.com
Tucker Walden launches a shot in Wilton's win over Darien. — GretchenMcMahonPhotography.com

Despite building a seemingly comfortable halftime lead, the Wilton High boys basketball team needed a nail-biting finish to get past Darien on Tuesday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

Trailing 38-25 entering the second half, Darien cut Wilton's lead down to four points with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. But a pull-up jumper by Andrew Smith and two free throws from Nick Kronenberg with 26.1 seconds remaining closed the door on Darien's comeback as the Warriors came away with a 65-57 triumph.

“We clearly lost our focus in the second half and we also took our foot off the pedal and helped them get back in the game,” said Kronenberg, a senior co-captain. “We played very sloppy. We were bringing the ball up the court with no purpose and we weren’t taking care of the ball.”

With just under a minute to play, Kronenberg missed the front end of a one-and-one. But given a chance for redemption, Kronenberg then made two free throws to secure Wilton's victory.

“I knew if I could hit both of my free throws it would give us an eight-point lead and make it a three-possession game,” said Kronenberg.

The win was the fourth straight for Wilton, which is now 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the FCIAC. The Warriors are first in the FCIAC East Division standings, a half-game ahead of St. Joseph.

The game was tied at 15-15 after one period, but Wilton got hot from behind the arc late in the second quarter, with four different players knocking down three-pointers as the Warriors ended the period on a 13-2 run. Smith led the way with two three-pointers, while Zayvion Eusebe, Kronenberg, and Reilly Bingaman added one apiece.

At the start of the third quarter, Darien drained a three-pointer and a two-point bucket to quickly cut the Warriors' lead to eight points. But Ryan Biberon, who was held scoreless in the first half, slowed the Blue Wave comeback by scoring the next three Wilton baskets and helping the hosts take a 50-41 lead heading into the final quarter.

“We clearly made it hard on ourselves tonight by not keeping up the energy level and focus, which surprised me,” said Wilton head coach Joel Geriak. “We have to do a better job finishing games and play smarter.

“Darien has players that can score and we gave them too many open looks to make a comeback,” added Geriak. “We were fortunate that Andrew Smith carried us with another big game scoring.”

For the second time in as many contests, Smith finished with a game-high 20 points for the Warriors. Kronenberg added 12 points, followed by Biberon with eight points and Kyle Hyzy and Bingaman with seven points each.

Will Rolapp had 15 points to lead Darien, which is 4-7 overall and 1-7 in the conference.