WILTON — The Wilton boys basketball team has been playing like it is still trying to get over the loss to New Britain. That was a day short of 10 months ago, in the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.
A trip to Florida, a team bout with the flu, a loss to St. Joseph and the Warriors came into tonight’s game against Norwalk wilting at 1-3.
“We just thought we needed to win,” said Andrew Smith, the Warriors’ smooth-shooting guard. “We needed to come out hard and get a W. That’s what it came down to in the end.”
Smith, barely well enough to play four nights ago, scored 16 of his 22 points in the first quarter tonight to ignite a 61-44 win.
“I figured if I was open I was going to take some shots and my teammates were getting me good looks,” Smith said. “I was going to keep doing it. It started on the defensive end, especially in the second half when they had turnovers and that led to fastbreak points and open shots because they couldn’t really get back on D.”
Four other players had either seven or eight points as the Warriors, still trying to find their legs, started to show the signs of a team many in town feel can again make a deep run into the league playoffs.
“We go to Florida and we play against a team and it is their 10th game of the season and our first, because of the way Connecticut is,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. “We got a little bit sick, it started down there, came back last game and no excuses, St. Joseph beat us. But you aren’t getting into a rhythm. Practices aren’t crisp because you’re not playing with everybody every day.”
Norwalk (1-2) stayed close through most of a sloppy first quarter in which the teams combined for 14 turnovers, eight by Wilton.
“Norwalk makes you play that way, honestly,” Geriak said. “In the game I scouted them they made a bunch of turnovers but they also had a lot of steals. We turned the ball over about 10 more times than I would like to. We want to be in the 10 range but give them credit. We forced some stuff early and we have some habits that we will break on film.”
Smith had all but two of the Warriors’ first-quarter points, his last 3 igniting a 9-0 run that gave them a lead they would build on the rest of the night.
“He carried us. That first quarter, he made some tough shots,” Geriak said. “He’s almost healthy. You can see the difference in the kid from the game before. In the pregame he was fired up, in the kids’ faces. He lived up to what he asked them to do. He’s one of our leaders for that reason.”
Wilton, with a 33-21 lead, opened the second half with 13 unanswered points. It led by as many as 26 late before the Bears closed the game with nine straight points.
Norwalk had four players with eight points.
Smith said the start of the season had been a source of frustration.
“The voice is a little shaky but I’m a lot closer to 100 percent than I was Friday night,” Smith said. “It was a little tricky with everybody getting sick and looking to bounce back. We’re starting to click and things are getting a lot better.”
Tonight’s win wasn’t one that made you say championship contender, but maybe it was the transitional game to where the Warriors hope to be.
“Even though we didn’t play a great game we played better than we have because we had some energy,” Geriak said. “We played a little better.”
Permieter shooter, rebounder, shut-down defender, the Warriors appear to have at least one player for every role. What will it all add up to?
“When we get healthy I’ll let you know,” Geriak said. “I’m trying to find some pieces. We have some height, we have some skill players, we have some good scorers, it is just them playing together more and we have to find out where those pieces fit. That’s my job. If we play the way we’re supposed to play we can be in the top eight and go from there.”