Boys Basketball

Wilton’s Depth Again An Asset In Second-Round Win Over Newington

Wilton’s Kyle Shifrin puts up a foul shot in the second half of the Class L win over Newington. (Photo: Valerie Johnson)

WILTON — Depth was supposed to be one of the Wilton boys basketball team’s biggest assets this season, but that seemed like a lost commodity when repeated injuries, starting at midseason to the Warriors’ two best players, Jack Williams and Matt Kronenberg, sapped them of an important advantage.

On the day the Warriors got confirmation that Williams is indeed lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee for the second time in less than a year, they again went to their bench to get unsung contributions that helped extend the season.

Ryan Schriber hit a pair of 3-point shots and Kyle Phillips was scoreless, but the two sophomores took turns guarding Newington star Jared Simmons in tonight’s Class L second-round game. Simmons finished with 22 points but never dominated, and Wilton patched together enough contributions to come away with a 64-57 win.

The sixth-seeded Warriors (19-6) will get one final home game, against No. 14 Crosby, in Monday’s quarterfinals.

“Ryan Schriber and Kyle Phillips, kids who don’t play a lot, played their butts off,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. “They took away (Simmons) the best they could.”

The outcome was secured, ironically, on what appeared to be Simmons’ best play of the night. Wilton had a 59-53 lead with 30.9 seconds left when Simmons heaved in an off-balance shot while being fouled. But the infraction occurred before the attempt, and Newington coach Scott Wenzel received a technical foul after arguing the call.

Simmons, with the Warriors over the limit, made two free throws and Matt Kronenberg answered with one of two for Wilton, which got possession and another free throw for Kronenberg, who finished with 19 points.

Wilton coach Joel Geriak watches his team during the win over Newington. (Photo: Dave Ruden)

Like his coach, Kronenberg also pointed to the defensive play of Schriber and Phillips.

“It’s a great win,” Kronenberg said. “Everyone contributed. You have to call those two out. Simmons still dropped 20, he is a fantastic player, but it was a quiet 20 and we really suppressed him. We kept them off the boards. Overall it was a great team effort.”

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Williams discovered he actually had been playing with a torn ACL since first injuring it in the regular season against Darien. He twice came back, but left last Thursday’s FCIAC championship loss to Ridgefield after aggravating it in the third quarter.

Wilton had Williams come out for the opening tip tonight, committing an infraction so he could immediately leave to a standing ovation.

“We gave Jack a little tribute, he deserved it. We gave him a walkoff,” Geriak said. “Game-wise, it was status quo from what we’ve been doing. We came out, played hard, stuck to the scouting report, taking (Simmons) away the best we could. He’s a good player. A couple of times we lost track and he hit one.”

Ironically, Schriber and Phillips played a role usually filled by Jack Wood, another senior who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the FCIAC Tournament.

“Coming into the season we knew we had the most depth in the entire conference, maybe in the state,” Kronenberg said. “With Jack being gone we all had to step up and pick up the scoring and rebounding, and most of all his leadership.”

Drew Connolly added 15 points for Wilton, which led for the final 11:45, but never by more than eight points.

Kronenberg said the double-overtime loss to the Tigers in both teams’ first league final appearances caused the Warriors to refocus.

“Personally my motivation was looking up at the rafters and it still being blank,” said Kronenberg, referring to the absence of a championship banner for boys basketball in the Zeoli Field House. “We used that for motivation. We knew we’re still a good team and could make a run.”