WILTON — Wilton boys basketball coach Joel Geriak has resigned himself to the reality that the type of balletic performances in recent years for now are in the rear-view mirror.
The Warriors remain a bottom-line team, without the style points.
Case in point: tonight’s 73-69 win over Trumbull. The Warriors seemed to have the game in control late in the third quarter when the Eagles’ best player, Mileeq Green, lost his temper after a charging call denied a basket. Trumbull was already without its starting point guard, and after Green was hit with two quick technicals and ejected, Wilton had a 12-point lead.
But the Eagles rallied to tie the game, and play slowed to a grind as the officials’ overused whistles led to 40 foul shots being taken in the second half.
Wilton was nine of 15 from the line in the final period to get a vital fourth-straight win with the regular season winding down.
“We got to the point we made our foul shots,” Geriak said. “They kept the game close. We did it to ourselves. But again we had guys in foul trouble and the kids finished out the game. We did some good things down the stretch but a little too close for my liking at the end.”
Kyle Hyzy, who was 12 of 13 from the line and scored 25 points, fouled out in one of the game’s many questionable calls with 1:37 remaining. He had been the team’s primary source of offense after halftime.
With both teams using players at the end that normally wouldn’t be on the court, Wilton improved to 9-7 over all and 8-4 in league play as it tries to rally itself into the FCIAC Tournament.
“We are going to be one of those teams now that doesn’t win pretty all the time,” Geriak said. “It’s not like it was in the past, but when you win it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be great, it doesn’t have to be pretty but the kids are working harder than they were earlier in the year and you can see the difference in the attitudes. It’s more fun to coach the kids and see them coming through, one through nine or 10 kids, to make big shots, big stops.”
Trumbull (9-7, 6-6), which is falling into must-win territory, did everything to try and take home a victory. But after Lance Walsh hit a 3 with 1:03 left to get within 71-69, the Eagles could not get another shot to fall.
“The kids played with a lot of heart today,” Trumbull coach Buddy Bray said. “We did have a lot to overcome. You have to credit Wilton. When they needed a bucket they got it. They’re always well coached, they are always shooting the 3 well. I thought defensively they got us out of out comfort zone a little bit on some possessions.”
Starting point guard Quentar Taylor did not make the trip with Trumbull. Bray declined to comment when asked if it was true that Taylor would not be returning this season.
Trumbull played well without Taylor in a close game until the Warriors used a 14-3 run to take a 37-28 lead before the Eagles’ Tyler Woolery hit a 3 before halftime.
Wilton was up by five when Green was ejected and Hyzy made four straight free throws to temporarily seize control.
I’m proud of the kids, they kept fighting,” Bray said. “You get the ejection there, Mileeq just has to learn to control his emotions. It hurts the team. He’s too valuable for us. He’s our heart out there. We need him.”
Trumbull improbably came all the way back.
“I don’t think there was a letdown,” Geriak said. “We even talked about it and said they are going to have more energy now and they did. We got a little flat offensively, stagnant. We tried to force some one on one moves instead of running the offense like we usually do.”
Jake Gruttadauria, whose heroic effort included a halfcourt shot at the end of the third quarter, finished with 18 points for Trumbull. Andrew Cutter added 15.
Andrew Smith finished with 16 points for Wilton.
Asked if the number of fouls called took the rhythm out of the game, Geriak said, “That’s the way it is sometimes, you have to adjust to it. We made foul shots down the stretch to win it.”