Boys Basketball

FCIAC Tournament Preview: Can Crusaders Bring School One Last Championship?

Malcolm Newman has helped elevate Trinity Catholic during the second half of the season. (Mark Conrad)

Super Saturday comes tomorrow with the top four seeds favorites to advance to Wilton. There are a couple of underdogs that have the pieces if they play to their strengths to pull off upsets.

The boys teams can look to what happened the last week over on the girls side, where seventh-seeded Ridgefield won the title by defeating the top three teams.

Many consider this to be Trinity Catholic’s tournament to lose. Ridgefield and a couple of schools from Fairfield probably feel otherwise.

No. 3 Fairfield Warde (16-4) vs. No. 6 Staples (15-5), Noon

The Mustangs get to play on their home court. An immediate edge right there. Not that they are without weapons. Hardly. Brandan McMahon ended the regular season with back to back 30 point games. His outside shooting is important to opening up the court for twins Justyn and Jordyn Davis. Joey Gulbin and Jack McKenna provide an inside game and the Mustangs are among the teams in the field with the greatest depth.

The Wreckers were not on any radars two months ago, and though it took to the final day of the season to clinch a berth they wound up as the sixth seed. Jake Thaw has had a strong season despite being hampered by a nagging ankle injury. Players like Benny Feuer, Teddy Dienst and Derek Sale play different roles and rotate with the scoring. Staples’ hopes may depend on Lucas Basich. When he is hitting 3s, the Wreckers are dangerous.

No. 2 Trinity Catholic (15-5) vs. No. 7 Wilton (11-9), 2 p.m.

The storyline after the last 24 hours is now Trinity’s drive to the last FCIAC title in school history. Surprisingly the last in boys basketball was back in 2008. The sentiment around the league is if they play their best game, the Crusaders won’t be touched, but if you can get them into a close game how will they respond.

Malcolm Newman has been the league’s best player since becoming eligible at midseason, adding the piece that has been missing from the puzzle. Ras Fisher and Akim Joseph provide the inside presence. The Crusaders’ most underrated player — maybe in the league as well — is Andrew St. Louis, who has been consistent from opening day.

Another question is the Crusaders’ lack of depth. If you can get them into foul trouble that is another equalizer. Of course this has been not done over then second half of the season.

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Wilton has struggled with consistency this winter and now has a big question mark: the health of Kyle Hyzy, who was pushed at the end of a win over Stamford on Monday and injured his knee. Hyzy is one of the league’s best players and it is hard to see the Warriors having a chance at the upset without him. Andrew Smith is a good complement with his outside shooting.

No. 4 Fairfield Ludlowe (16-4) vs. No. 5 St. Joseph (14-6), 5 p.m.

While the top three seeds appear the most likely to win the title, the Falcons are the sleeper. They are one of the best-coached teams and when they are executing very dangerous. James Bourque is the catalyst at point guard, a steadying influence who can score and distribute. The swing player for Ludlowe is Ian Bentley, who can make an impact inside and on the perimeter. When he is on the Falcons become much more formidable. They are one of many teams in the field that have flourished by not beating themselves.

The Cadets are another surprise team. Followers of the league have been waiting for them to plummet, but instead they earned the fifth seed behind the guard play of Paul Fabbri and Jason James. St. Joseph is 3-4 against the field. After a three-game losing streak threatened their chances, the Cadets came back and won three in a row.

No. 1 Ridgefield (18-2) vs. No. 8 New Canaan (12-8), 7 p.m.

An intriguing matchup: the regular season champion against what might now be the most feared lower seed.

Credit the Tigers for an outstanding regular season. They were blown out by Trinity but otherwise never faltered at any time. Guard Luke McGarrity is a serious Player of the Year candidate, and he is complemented by Chris Knachel. Coach Andrew McClellan has a deep bench and can adjust accordingly, and different players have stepped up to provide added point production. Ridgefield is the poster child for a team that won’t beat itself and dares opponents to play more mistake free. There is one FCIAC title in the McClellan household already: his daughter Cameron is on the Tiger team that upset Staples last night.

New Canaan plays a similar style and now that Alex Gibbens is back from a pair of injuries this is a different team. Gibbens produced two 22-point games this week that were must-wins. Ryan McAleer is a very steady point guard. The Rams also have a number of players who can help offensively. This is a team to watch that just might have gotten the wrong draw.