By Dave Ruden
STAMFORD — Let’s all make a deal. Until we have a much larger body of work — and the way things are shaping up we could be talking at least a month — the word upset should be used very sparingly, if at all, in FCIAC boys basketball.
Wilton over Darien? Westhill over St. Joseph? Stamford over Norwalk?
No, no, no.
“This is just our first game. All we can do is get better,” said Trinity guard Tremaine Fraiser, echoing phrasing that took place in 18 locker rooms Wednesday night, following his team’s 63-57 home loss to Bassick.
Both teams were often sloppy, out of synch, rusty. Hey, it was opening night.
That was certainly true for the Crusaders, just nine months removed from playing in the state final, and nine months removed from Schadrac’s Casimir’s heroics.
Trinity opened the season with Fraiser as the new team leader, surrounded by two juniors and two sophomores of unproven quality just yet.
Bassick coach Bernie Lofton, in a move that will likely be copied at least in the short term, had his defense, particularly Curhone Baldwin, overplaying Fraiser, denying him the ball.
Fraiser, frustrated, was held to 12 points, often appearing like a young pony denied open field to romp around.
“It was sort of annoying, like a little bug in your ear,” Fraiser said of the constant back-and-forth he shared with Baldwin. “It was our first game and we were kind of nervous. I tried to do the best I could. I had to find my open teammates.”
The good news — and there was some — for the Crusaders was the way Aaron Wheeler and Tyrell St. John, who finished with 22 and 20 points, respectively, stepped up.
Trinity is going to need more performances like this from the duo because it is asking too much of Fraiser — or anyone for that matter — to pull a Casimir II. There have been better players to wear the uniform but none that have had a better year than Casimir did a year ago.
Because of the Crusaders’ long-standing success, they are going to remain targeted throughout the season. There will be no sympathy, no matter what the future holds.
And truth be told, it was hard leaving the Trinity gym Wednesday thinking you had a better read on the team than you did two hours earlier.
“We did some good things and there are things that need to be worked on,” Walsh said. “Our offensive execution wasn’t there. There were some positives we can build on, but I thought we could have been more physical.”
Trinity trailed almost the entire night. Its only leads came midway through the second quarter, at 21-20 and, on a drive by Justice Page, 23-22.
Bassick used a 13-2 run to take a 40-29 advantage with six minutes left in the third quarter, but the Crusaders came back and scored the final 10 points of the period to forge a 44-44 tie.
Then the Lions got the ball inside and, as Walsh said, outmuscled his team down the stretch. Bassick had a 53-48 lead before St. John converted a free throw and then hit a 3-point shot to draw the Crusaders within one.
Baldwin, who scored a team-high 20 points, hit a pull-up jumper to lead the final run.
Carl Brown, who played well in the paint, finished with 16 points and Kobe Ancrum added 10 for Bassick.
“I thought our 1-3-1 defense was spectacular, we just need to put more pressure up top,” Fraiser said.
Walsh said what the Crusaders really need is more time in the gym.
“We’ve missed three practices because of the weather,” Walsh said. “I’m not making any excuses. I think that was a big reason for our problems on offense. We really had no flow. It will get better.”
It will get better for everyone. Bridgeport Central is rightfully being cast as Secretariat at this point but, building on the theme, the rest of the league is shaping up as a close horse race.
If Wednesday night’s scores surprised you, they shouldn’t. In fact, expect more of the same.
“We did a lot tonight but we have to do more,” Walsh said.
Really, at this point, it is nothing to get upset about.