DANBURY — A one-possession game in the final 90 seconds is exactly when stars deliver in crunch time.
Danbury’s 1-2 punch delivered the knockout blow within 20 seconds to fend off a strong force to stay atop the FCIAC.
Denali Burton and Javon Hernandez converted layups down the stretch to help Danbury topple Wilton 61-53 in a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league.
“That’s what expected of them in crunch time,” said Hatters coach Casey Bock. “I thought Keyon (Moore) carried us early; we executed a play where Denali got a layup and Javon got that and-one.”
The Hatters led just 53-52 with 1:30 left after a 3-point play from Wilton’s Nick Kronenberg (13 points), but Burton scored from inside and Hernandez added a 3-point play to push the lead back to 58-52 with 42 seconds left. The Warriors couldn’t get a shot to fall in the final stages as Danbury clinched back-to-back wins after a recent loss to Stamford.
“It was a close game and it was getting rowdy in there,” said Hernandez, who scored 14 points. “Our crowd and their crowd were getting after it. Once Denali made that layup, we had a good lead and I hit the and-one, that took the stress off of us.”
The game was deadlocked at 45-45 heading into the final quarter and stayed close until the deciding twist. Wilton got 14 points from Ryan Biberon and 12 from Andrew Smith.
“This is probably the toughest place in the league to play in,” Warriors coach Joel Geriak said. “Both crowds get loud in here and it’s hard to communicate. They had some energy at the end of the game, and they outmatched us. We took some dumb shots down the stretch and that didn’t help us.”
Wilton (13-4) upended Trumbull 69-60 on Friday to move above the Eagles into second place of the league ahead of Monday’s showdown. Facing the other top squads in the league didn’t add extra motivation, but it showed the Warriors will be as difficult as anyone to knock out of the quickly arriving tournament.
“We’re passing the ball a lot this year,” Geriak said. “We’re trusting each other, we’re playing defense pretty well for the most part. We’re playing a lot of kids and the scoring is balanced, that’s the main thing.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Keyon Moore, Danbury: His hot shooting kept the Hatters in the game through three quarters; he sank five triples en route to 17 points to lead all scorers.
“He’s always been solid but now he’s shooting the ball well,” Bock said. “When he’s shooting the ball, we’re a different team. It’s tough to match up with us when he’s hitting those shots.”
“The chemistry is coming together and playing as a team,” Hernandez said. “Coming off our defense how it translates to offense; once we get a stop or turnover it just translates to extra offense.”
DANBURY 61, WILTON 53
Tucker Walden 1 1-2 3 Nick Kronenberg 4 4-7 13 Andrew Smith 5 0-0 12 Kyle Hyzy 2 0-0 6 Ryan Biberon 6 2-3 14 Zarion Eysebe 3 0-1 6. Totals: 21 7-13 53.
Javon Hernandez 5 4-5 14 Keyon Moore 5 2-2 17 Denali Burton 4 1-4 10 Jah Joyner 2 0-0 4 Taylor Heady 1 0-0 2 Jaden Cook 1 1-2 4 Raimir Rivera 3 0-0 8. Totals: 21 8-13 61.
WILTON 17 13 15 8 — 53
DANBURY 16 15 14 16 — 61
3-pointers: W—Kronenberg, Smith 2, Hyzy; D—Moore 5, Burton, Cook, Rivera 2.