When the Wilton boys basketball team finally stepped onto the court for their season opener against Norwalk in late February, there was a bit of disbelief among the Warriors players.
Who could blame them?
After going 316 days since their last game, the Warriors had suited up exactly once, for conditioning drills, on Jan. 19 before being shut down for two weeks due to a COVID outbreak at Wilton High.
After a two-week pause, the Warriors began practice with their first game pushed back nine days from the original schedule. Weather delays meant two more hoops-less days.
So it was a bit of shock to the system when Wilton’s game against Norwalk actually tipped off.
“Even going into that Norwalk High game, the first game of the year, the kids honestly didn’t believe we were going to have a game,” Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. “They got pushed back, and pushed back. Until we actually got on the court, they didn’t really know if we were going to play or not.”
What’s followed for Wilton has been a whirlwind of winning basketball.
When they host New Canaan in the regular-season finale Saturday, the Warriors will have played 12 games in 22 days, a run that includes a pair of four-game weeks. It’s enough to wear down even the fittest of athletes, but Geriak said the team has handled it well.
“They’ve been great and they’ve worked hard at it every day,” Geriak said. “Our biggest problem — and it’s the same for teams like Greenwich, which went through the same thing we did — is you’re having to play 12 games in (22 days), and this week, we’re having our seventh and eighth practices of the year, and that’s it.”
Remarkably, the Warriors seem to have thrived under the circumstances.
Wilton is 9-2 and has won eight straight, including Thursday’s 59-48 victory over Ludlowe.
The Warriors are tied for fourth place in the FCIAC standings and, with a win over New Canaan on Saturday, would have at least two home games in the conference tournament. As it stands, Wilton will host a first-round game Tuesday against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
“Everybody getting in (the playoffs) was the right call,” Geriak said. “Just about every team is behind where they want to be, but we’re all getting better each day because we’re getting more reps and playing good teams. I think there will be some upsets — it depends on the matchup for your team.”
The Warriors have nine seniors, including captains Josh White, Trevor Martines, John McMahon and Michael Kepner, and Geriak said their leadership has helped the team stay focused.
“That’s probably the best thing that’s happened, having that many kids as seniors,” Geriak said. “The main thing was them having fun and playing with each other. That leadership made all the younger kids follow suit.”
White is the Warriors’ leading scorer, with Martines playing well at point guard, and McMahon and junior James McKiernan as 3-point threats.
Parker Woodring, a junior, is a big kid who does everything, according to Geriak.
“The kid’s going to be special, especially with another year to go,” Geriak said.
Geriak added that all the kids have played their roles and done something special this season.
With so many games in a little more than three weeks, Geriak said he doesn’t expect the team to get to its ideal spot, but that’s not the most important thing this year.
“We’re not where we want to be and I don’t think we’ll get there this year,” Geriak said. “The kids work hard and they know it’s been a tough situation, but at the end of the day, they also know they’re playing basketball. That was almost taken away, so I think that’s kept them focused.”
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