Wilton 79, Norwalk 68: The Warriors Are Back In A Title Hunt They Never Left

Wilton's Richie Williams drives to the basket during Monday night's win over Norwalk. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)
Wilton’s Richie Williams drives to the basket during Monday night’s win over Norwalk. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)

NORWALK — Remove some of the turnovers, add a little bit more late drama and sign us up for a reprisal of Monday night’s Wilton-Norwalk game in the FCIAC championship.

It could happen.

The Warriors’ 79-68 win — it was a three-point game with under two minutes remaining — was played at a sprinter’s pace, with good defense and quick ball movement that led to a rainstorm of 3-point shots.

“We attacked tonight,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. “We shot 3s pretty well.”

Most people came into the night treating the storyline as the Warriors getting the chance to prove they can again play with the elite. It was a reaffirmation how perception has blurred this winter with reality.

The Bears (13-4, 11-4) entered just one game ahead of Wilton (13-4, 11-4) both in league and overall play.

Wilton's Matt Shifrin, driving between two Norwalk defenders, finished with a game-high 26 points. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)
Wilton’s Matt Shifrin, driving between two Norwalk defenders, finished with a game-high 26 points. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)

While there is a fire down below for the final spots in the FCIAC Tournament, the Warriors, who started the night in a three-way tie for fourth place, leapfrogged into sole possession of third, a game behind Ludlowe.

Anyone who says they had Ludlowe and Wilton 2-3 back in December fibs. It now only seems mildly surprising.

In this jumbled world, Geriak partially contradicted himself over the course of two minutes in a postgame interview.

“Tonight was a fun game,” he said at the start. “We knew what we had to do for seeding purposes.”

Later, when asked in this parity-filled year whether seeding was that important, he said, “It’s always important. It gives you confidence, that’s why it’s important. Any one of the eight that get in could win.”

Norwalk's Zaire Wilson whips off a pass to Peter Kotulsky. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)
Norwalk’s Zaire Wilson whips off a pass to Peter Kotulsky. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)

Consider: Trumbull, which has been playing to dizzying extremes, beat Bridgeport Central by a surprising 31 points on Monday to get itself back into the top eight.

When I saw the Warriors for the first time this season, they opened 4 for 33 against the Eagles.

There was none of that against Norwalk. Wilton’s quick ball movement produced open looks and led to 12 3-pointers. After a 7-0 run gave the Warriors a 48-45 lead midway through the third quarter, the Bears responded with 11 unanswered points to go ahead by eight.

“We came back strong,” said Matt Shifrin, the Warriors’ hot shooting guard, who scored a game-high 26 points. “We hit a bunch of shots and played good defense.”

Mike Bingamin, the recipient of some maneuverings Geriak made to get Norwalk star Roy Kane away from the basket on defense, scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.

Wilton's Lucas Savoie drives past Norwalk's Matt Jarrett for a first-half basket. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)
Wilton’s Lucas Savoie drives past Norwalk’s Matt Jarrett for a first-half basket. (Photo: J. Gregory Raymond)

“When he gets hot and gets going we ride him when he’s like that,” Shifrin said.

Richie Williams added 15 points and Scott Shouvlin 12 for Wilton.

The Bears played well for spurts, but for the fourth time fell to a team that is in or playing for one of the top four seeds. Kane finished with 24 and Jeremy Linton, in the type of performance Norwalk is going to need for postseason success, scored 19 on five 3-pointers.

While only two games separate the second through seventh seeds, there is a disparity of styles.

In a mostly neutral gymnasium, the guess here is that Wilton’s will prove among the most satisfying.

“We lost three in a row but the kids never believed we were underachieving,” Geriak said. “We had some bad games. It does happen. We know we’re a team that should be where we are.”

That’s back in the thick of a championship hunt.

Even though the Warriors really never left.

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