By Emery Filmer
WILTON – One can excuse Stamford High School boys basketball coach Danny Melzer for not immediately giving some love to his 6-foot-7 senior Kweshon Askew Tuesday after the Black Knights had defeated Wilton, 77-61. Askew was terrific, especially in the first half, when he had 12 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in 16 minutes.
It’s just that there were just so many other parts of the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference victory that Melzer wanted to gush over.
“We executed the game plan perfectly,” Melzer said.
Melzer’s team built an 18-point lead in the third quarter over a Wilton team that had won seven of its first eight games. Then, after the Warriors cut it to three, the Knights showed the kind of resiliency that has been missing so far this season and finished the game on a 22-8 run.
“Defensively, they’re a great shooting team but we weren’t going to let them beat us off the dribble,” Melzer added. “Everyone played great defense, they stayed on their man all the time. And I know Wilton is good in transition but we’re not afraid to run and showed it. I feel we’re the best team in the league in transition. And when they cut it to three, we made smart decisions and got stops when we needed it. We played great.”
Indeed, with Gianni Carwin leading the way with 21 points, James Gronberg adding 16 and Billy DeVito 12, the Knights put together one of the best performances in Melzer’s three seasons at the helm.
“This,” said Carwin, “was a statement game for us. Wilton was 7-1 but we brought it to them.”
Oh yeah, almost forgot about the big guy.
“(Askew) is a game-changer,” Melzer said. “On defense he dominates around the basket, but even when he doesn’t block the shot he still affects it. He makes you think about what you’re going to do with the ball as you’re going up for the shot.”
Askew looked like the best player in the league during the first half as the more perimeter-minded Warriors (7-2, 5-1 FCIAC) had no answer on either end of the floor.
“We weren’t ready,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. “I don’t know if it was that we were thinking we are better than we are, or that Stamford would be down after losing a couple of close ones lately.”
The Knights (7-3, 5-3) used a 17-2 spurt in the first quarter to take a 24-9 lead and led 37-21 at halftime. Askew was 4 for 6 from the floor, 4 for 4 from the line and added three assists to go with his 12 points, 13 boards and four blocks in the first half. He finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks and four assists.
“It might have been my best half ever,” said Askew who did have a 21-point, 21-rebound game against St. Joseph recently.
“Askew scared me to death,” Geriak added. “We’re not big; we just can’t jump that high, and we didn’t box him out.”
Wilton was able to slow Askew with a zone defense in the third quarter but with DeVito, Carwin and Gronberg hitting shots from the outside, the Stamford lead grew to 48-30.
“The zone neutralized us and I didn’t score as much,” Askew said. “But I didn’t expect them to get it down to three (56-53 in the first minute of the fourth quarter).”
Wilton, led by Matt Shifrin, who had 22 points, two above his season average, finally got hot. In fact, the Warriors started the third quarter shooting 11 for 14 from the field. But Stamford made its first five shots of the period. Shifrin, Richie Williams (13 points) and Michael Bingaman (12 points) led a 23-8 Wilton run that pulled the Warriors within three.
From there on, it was Melzer’s favorite part of the game. With Askew held in check, the Knights weren’t going to be denied and rebuilt a comfortable lead.
“We got their best punch and we were able to take it,” Carwin said.
NOTES: Stamford was 12 for 23 from the field in the second half and finished 25 for 54. Wilton, which was 2 for 15 in the second quarter, ended up 24 for 57. … Stamford, which had 15 turnovers compared to 13 for Wilton, outrebounded Wilton, 39-27. Malik Clayborne added eight rebounds for the Knights while Lucas Savoie had nine for the Warriors.