NORWALK — Zaire Wilson was not in the Norwalk boys basketball team’s starting lineup against Trinity Catholic on Tuesday night. His coach, Thomas Keyes, did not give a specific reason.
Wilson may have played himself back to the bench Friday night. The reason? Scoring 19 points and shutting down the Crusaders’ best player in the fourth quarter to key the Bears to their biggest win of the year, 58-53.
“Maybe he didn’t like coming off the bench,” Keyes said with a grin. “He’s had some really good games for us. We think when it all clicks for him he’s good at both ends of the floor.”
That certainly was the case Tuesday. The basketball seemed to have the effect of an Ambien in the first half as neither team made much of an effort to attack the myriad zone defenses they faced.
Wilson entered midway through the first quarter and immediately hit a pair of 3-point shots. He opened the fourth quarter with another trey, igniting a 15-2 run that turned a 46-41 lead into an 8-point advantage.
Wilson was 5 for 7 on 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the final quarter.
“I wasn’t upset,” Wilson said of opening the game on the bench. “I knew I had to come in with high intensity.”
The same could be said for the Bears, languishing with a 5-7 record and without a signature victory.
“When you’re 4-6 you need any win,” said Keyes, referring to his team’s conference mark at the start of the night. “We needed a win like this. That’s a red-hot team we just beat.”
The Crusaders (6-7, 5-6 FCIAC) were riding a five-game winning streak and seemed headed toward making a Spiderman-like leap up the standings.
But this is a season of parity unlike any in recent memory, and served as a reminder for Trinity that there is no such thing — unless you play for Greenwich or Bridgeport Central — as a fast lane.
Eight losses is going to probably get at least a team or two into the FCIAC Tournament. A .500 record might suffice.
In a game critical — that can be said for almost every one involving two of about 10 teams — to both team’s chances, the Bears won because of another splendid effort from Roy Kane Jr., who finished with 27 points, and the work done by Wilson on the defensive end.
Keyes switched to a box-and-one and put Wilson on Tremaine Fraiser, who had been Lights Out — his nickname — with 25 points through three quarters.
Fraiser got few touches in the final period and his only points were three free throws with 27 seconds left that ended Norwalk’s spurt.
“It was hard because he’s a good player,” Wilson said. “He’s a tough player to D, but I stuck him. I had to play off him a little bit because he can shoot and he’s quick.”
To Fraiser’s credit, he is unselfish, occasionally to a fault. He worked hard to set up his teammates, but the Crusaders shot just 2 for 9 from the field in the final quarter.
“I thought we were fine with the box-and-one,” Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. “I thought we took bad shots. We didn’t have to score. I think if we had spread them out and been patient we would have been all right.”
Incredibly at this point in the season, the evening started with nine teams within one game of each other for the final two berths in the league playoffs.
Norwalk has another big game Friday against Wilton. The teams are now tied in the conference standings.
Asked if he was prouder of his play on offense or defense, Wilson said, “Defense. Because defense wins games.
It might just have also earned Wilson a spot on the bench for Friday’s opening tip.