WILTON — Ryan Schriber is not a player who normally is going to stand out on the court, but he fills the role teams need to be successful. Schriber’s importance was never more evident that tonight as he helped lead Wilton to its biggest win of the season.
Schriber plays punishing defense, a task he relishes. He is solid but unspectacular in every other area, and it was the cumulative effort that helped the Warriors rebound from giving up a 17-point lead to come away with a 69-60 road win at Trumbull.
“I’ve been a defensive player ever since I’ve got to the high school,” said Schriber, who plays defense for Wilton’s lacrosse team. “I’ve been trying to shape my offensive game. Defense is definitely where I put most of my pride. I just find the fire. I love the one on one matchups, being able to shut down an opposing team’s best player. That’s what kind of motivates me.”
Eagles star Timmond Williams finished with 35 points, but was limited to two field goals and seven points by Schriber over the final eight minutes. That helped Wilton go on a 16-3 run to take control of the game and defeat the team that started the night in first place in the league standings.
During one sequence, Schriber blocked a shot at one end of the court and set up Nick Kronenberg for a layup on the other.
“Not a master of anything outside defense but he does everything else,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said of Schriber. “He rebounds for us when he has to, he makes the extra pass, he does see the floor pretty well. He’s been playing great for us this year and he’s been a real leader too.”
The balance the Warriors rely on was also never more evident. Seven different players scored between eight and 11 points, with Kronenberg and Zayvion Eusebe tying for team-high honors. The Warriors also hit 11 3-pointers.
“All I can say is this team battles through adversity no matter what gets thrown at us,” said Schriber, who finished with eight points.
A week ago the Warriors left Ridgefield with a humbling 18-point loss. They have bounced back and been part of a huge shakeup in the standings. Trumbull (13-3, 10-2), which was unbeaten in conference play three days ago, lost for the second straight time. The Eagles are now tied with Wilton (13-3, 10-2) and Danbury for first place with five games left, a game ahead of Ridgefield. The Warriors and Hatters meet Monday night.
The Eagles played without Chris Brown, the glue to their team and one of the mostly highly praised players by opposing coaches. Brown was inadvertently elbowed by teammate Quentar Taylor in Tuesday’s loss to Fairfield Warde and needed plastic surgery on his mouth. Trumbull coach Buddy Bray is hoping Brown will return next week.
Wilton was able to get open looks on the perimeter, hit shots, get second-chance baskets when they missed and opened up a 24-13 lead late in the first quarter.
In a game of stark swings, the Eagles scored seven straight points that were answered by an 8-0 Wilton run. The Warriors took a 41-26 halftime lead.
“They played very well, they shot the ball real well and ran their stuff,” Bray said. “I think what I saw the most was how they shared it. It wasn’t one kid but three or four kids taking long 3s and knocking them down.”
The Eagles tightened their defense in the third quarter, Williams scored from outside and in transition and took the lead, 48-47, on a putback by Jack Therriault in the final minute.
“All year, if you look back, to be honest we’ve had terrible third quarters,” Schriber said. “I think this group that we have, we just have so much chemistry and we are able to keep our composure and push through adversity.”
As it turned out, that was the Eagles’ final advantage of the night. With the score tied at 53-53 and five minutes left, Schriber hit a 3-point shot to put the Warriors back in a lead they would not relinquish. Six different players scored for them in the final period, none topping five points.
“The third quarter we knew they’d come out with more energy and we stopped attacking,” Geriak said. “I asked them why did we stop running our offense. For whatever reason we slowed the ball down when they made the run instead of attacking. They got the lead on us and the kids responded with a run of our own and we played good defense. Schriber did a great job on Timmond.”
Evan Gutowski added 10 points for Trumbull.
“I thought the kids showed what they could do in the third quarter and got back in the game but at that point I think we ran out of gas going into the fourth quarter,” Bray said. “At the start of the fourth quarter we took three or four really quick shots and didn’t make them work and they capitalized on the other end and that was the spurt that we didn’t make up. We should have been a little more patient there and run our stuff.”
Now the Warriors go back on the road Monday to play the Hatters, who started the season along with Trumbull as the favorites. Wilton could be in first place by tiebreaker at the end of the night.
“They are resilient, they play hard,” Geriak said. “They know what’s in front of us. The way the league has fallen the last couple of games they saw a little bit of light. It is going to be a tough game up there but as a coach that’s all you ask for, to be in that spot.”