STAMFORD — Trinity Catholic coach Brian Kriftcher feels guard Andrew Saint-Louis is not only his most improved player, but the one who has made the greatest strides in the entire FCIAC.
While it will take weeks for that opinion to be proven true, Saint-Louis tonight displayed that he can make an impact at a time the Crusaders need it.
Saint-Louis scored a game-high 26 points and hit two key 3-point shots in the second half to lead Trinity to a 66-51 home win over New Canaan in the conference opener for both teams.
“He’s an outstanding point guard,” Kriftcher said. “He has a real high basketball IQ, he’s worked his tail off in the offseason, he’s transformed his body. He’s going to have a great year.”
Saint-Louis’ scoring was evenly split between all four quarters and he was equally adept helping the Crusaders (2-2) dictate the tempo and pressuring the Rams into mistakes.
A strong start by Saint-Louis is important for the Crusaders, who learned last week that Malcolm Newman, a highly trumpeted transfer, will have to sit out the first 10 games after a misunderstanding over the transfer rules. It was thought Newman would be the point guard, the position that gave Trinity the greatest difficulty last season.
But Newman will probably play the two and Saint-Louis will run the offense. He made a strong case tonight.
“Since Malcolm isn’t able to play I knew I had to step up, so I just had to do what I had to do to let my team get a win,” Saint-Louis said.
Akim Joseph scored 13 points and Brandon Louis added 11 for Trinity, which won the game on the defensive side of the floor. The Crusaders forced seven turnovers in the first quarter and 24 for the game. New Canaan’s lone lead was at 3-2.
“Our defense was really good,” Kriftcher said. “We have some stuff to clean up but the defense was good. With our length, we got into a little bit of foul trouble in spots and being without Malcolm hurts us a little bit. Our offense just has to be cleaned up a little bit.”
Alex Gibbens, one of the stars on the Rams’ run last year to the Division IV state title, finished with 24 points. Ryan McAleer added 13 points.
But the Rams (3-2) had difficultly gaining any traction because of the combination of carelessness with the ball and the Crusaders’ pressure.
“You can’t play 12 minutes against one of the best teams in the league and expect to win,” New Canaan coach Danny Melzer said. “Trinity played very well. (Saint-Louis) killed us. Against Trinity you have to pick your poison and we decided to pick our poison with (Saint-Louis), and he made us pay. But that’s what good teams do. When you have 25 turnovers and get outrebounded as bad as we did it’s going to be tough to win.”
The Crusaders led by as many as 21 points late in the third quarter, but an 11-0 run helped New Canaan get to within eight on two occasions midway through the final period. The Crusaders pulled away with a 10-0 run.
“We just said take some air out of the ball, move the ball better and lets get a backdoor cut,” Kriftcher said. “And we got a couple of backdoor cuts and we moved the ball a little better. It wasn’t rocket science. They had to gamble. We had them by the throat. We’re happy with the win.”
Former Trinity Catholic star Torey Thomas, who helped lead the team to the state finals four straight years and quarterbacked Holy Cross to the NCAA Tournament, had his number retired before the game. Thomas has been playing professionally in Europe and is flying back to France tomorrow.