After putting forth an inefficient first-half performance on Tuesday, the Staples High boys basketball team regrouped at halftime and discussed the ways to re-gain the lead from Wilton.
Trailing by just a point in a game pivotal in the FCIAC playoff push, the Wreckers focused on dialing up the intensity on both ends of the floor.
In turn, they bounced right back.
Riding a 10-0 run spanning from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth, Staples pulled away and eventually sealed a 54-49 win over Wilton at home.
"In the locker room, we talked about how we wanted to pick up the pace a little bit, get some steals and deflections," said guard Peter Rankowitz, who led Staples with 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers in the process. "We were able to do that, and get some offense off of our defense."
Guard James Frusciante added 16 points and forward Ross Whelan had 10 points for Staples, which improved to 9-6 (8-5 FCIAC). Winners of six of their last seven, the Wreckers remain in seventh place in the conference's eight-team playoff field with five games remaining.
"This is definitely just another step, another step on the way to (Fairfield) Ludlowe," Rankowitz said, referring to the site of the FCIAC quarterfinals. "That's what we look for, that's what we want to come out and do."
Following four lead changes early in the third, the Wreckers regained the advantage late in the quarter, 33-30, on a 3-pointer by Rankowitz. The Wreckers refused to look back from there, as they reeled off another seven unanswered points to take a 40-30 lead in the fourth quarter.
"It was the perfect time to make a run. It's hard to call a timeout with 30 seconds to go to stop a run, and know that you might need them," Wilton coach Joel Geriak said. "They made some great plays. They're a great transition team."
Wilton got 15 points from guard Matt Shifrin and 13 from Chris Curtis in losing for just the second time in the last nine games. The Warriors (9-6, 7-6) are currently sitting eighth in the FCIAC.
After another trey by Rankowitz to open the fourth quarter, Wilton put an end to Staples' run with a bucket by forward Weston Wilbur. The two teams traded buckets on the next two possessions, before the Wreckers pushed the lead to 48-37 on a layup by David Katz.
The Warriors got within four points (50-46) in the final minute, but Frusciante knocked down four consecutive free throws to seal the win.
"Defensively, we really turned it up in the second half," Staples coach Colin Devine said. "We got a hand out on their shooters. Coach Geriak is a great coach and he's got them playing basketball the right way. They spread the floor and they drive and kick, and it's hard to guard. But I thought we did a good job tonight guarding them."
Wilton led 11-9 after the first quarter and extended its lead to 13-9 to start the second on a bucket by Wilbur (eight points). The lead changed hands four times in the second quarter, but the Warriors jumped back ahead 20-19 entering halftime.
Guard Eric Houska finished the night scoring 10 points for the Warriors.
"We stopped attacking the rim," Geriak said. "We decided to try to go one-on-one ... instead of playing team basketball. When we didn't attack the rim, we went east, west instead of north, south, and making the defense commit to somebody."
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STAPLES 54, WILTON 49
Weston Wilbur 3 2-2 8 Max Maudsley 0 0-0 0 Matt Shifrin 4 4-4 15 Justin Shepard 0 0-0 0 John Prinner 0 0-0 0 Richard Williams 0 0-0 0 Olandi LeGrand 1 1-1 3 Eric Houska 3 2-2 10 Chris Curtis 6 0-0 13. Totals 17 9-9 49.
Jake Melnick 0 0-0 0 James Frusciante 4 8-8 16 Joe Greenwald 0 0-0 0 David Katz 2 0-0 4 Andrew Felman 0 0-0 0 Nick Esposito 1 0-0 2 Darryle Wiggins 1 0-0 2 Ross Whelan 5 0-0 10 Peter Rankowitz 7 2-3 20 Nick Ward 0 0-0 0 Alex Addessi 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-11 54.
WILTON 11 9 10 19 -- 49
STAPLES 9 10 18 17 -- 54
3-pointers: W -- Shifrin 3, Houska 2, Curtis; S -- Rankowitz 4.