WILTON — The poise that carried the Wilton boys basketball team to one of the best regular seasons in the program’s history betrayed it in the final minutes of tonight’s Division II quarterfinal game against New Britain.
And, after an unusual and ultimately crushing final sequence, the Warriors lost a postseason game on their home floor for the second time in 10 days.
This one ended their season.
Kaiyon Gunn’s steal and layup, as the Warriors were hoping to set up for a final shot, with 15 seconds left proved to be the difference in the Golden Hurricanes’ 64-63 win.
“You feel bad for the seniors,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. “The kids gave me everything this year. Compared to what we had last year, they changed what we did from the year before, back to playing team basketball. It was fun to coach them and I wish it didn’t end for them.”
The Warriors will carry bitter memories into the offseason from the many twists that could have altered the outcome. Most will come from the moments after Gunn’s basket.
Nick Kronenberg got a step ahead of a defender but was a little too strong on his shot. Thameen Dupree got the rebound for New Britain and was fouled with 4.1 seconds left.
Dupree missed the one and one, but Gunn got the rebound and was fouled with 0.3 seconds left. Several New Britain players, thinking the game was over, rushed the court to celebrate. The Golden Hurricanes were assessed a technical foul for leaving the bench.
Gunn missed the one and one on the foul, but Kyle Hyzy made just one of two free throws. Wilton maintained possession but a long inbounds pass from halfcourt failed to produce a tip-in chance.
“Unfortunately they have to live that last time playing here and my heart goes out to all those kids,” Geriak said. “They played their butts off for me, they did everything they could and they just came up a little short.”
Zayvion Eusebe, one of Wilton’s six seniors, finished with 18 points. Andrew Smith added 15 for the third-seeded Warriors (18-6), who ended up with the second-best record in the FCIAC during the regular season and lost to Danbury in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Wilton entered the final period trailing by three points, but Smith hit a 3-point shot from the corner to tie the game and Reilly Bingaman followed with a putback for a 54-52 lead.
The teams then matched baskets until Gunn’s deciding play.
Shamah Charles led New Britain with 17 points. Dupree added 12 points and Isaiah Jenkins finished with 10.
Wilton scored the game’s first six points and led by as many as nine late in the first quarter. New Britain (18-5), the sixth seed, upped the defensive pressure, producing dual benefits. It created forced turnovers as well as unforced, as the Warriors sometimes rushed on offense when there was no need to.
“I yelled at certain kids on the bench for losing composure and not knowing the situation where we had timeouts and didn’t call them,” Geriak said. “Things we can’t do as a team. And winning games like this, taking the next step you have to be composed for 32 minutes and we were for 29 and a half, 30.”
The Warriors turned the ball over 21 times, 13 in the first half.
“We told them we keep them under 20 we will be in the game, if we keep them under 14 we will win the game and anything above 20 we’re in trouble,” Geriak said. “Things you can’t do against a team that’s good. They’re a good team. They play well, they stick there on defense and they made some big shots at the end too.”