For many of the past eight seasons, Staples has tip-toed around the .500 mark, occasionally pulling off a surprise, like last year’s road win at Wilton, but by mid February not within range of ending an absence from the FCIAC Tournament that goes back to 2012.
It always seemed like the Wreckers were on the cusp, one player away from breaking through.
As the conference schedule kicks in, the Wreckers so far appear to have the personnel not just to achieve their goals of postseason berths, but making long playoff runs.
Staples enters a pivotal week at 5-0. Four opponents have losing records, but previous teams may have found a way to stumble once or twice.
“We’re off to a good start,” Staples coach Colin Devine said. “We have really good senior leadership, they’re working hard. I think we’ve always been tough to prepare for. We’ve always been competitive. I think this group just has a chip on their shoulder and they want to fight and compete in the FCIAC playoffs, and if they continue to work hard in practices that should be our goal.”
The Wreckers’ starting lineup features four seniors, led by Jake Thaw, who was second team All-FCIAC a year ago and just ran the table earning All-State honors for the football team.
Thaw is averaging close to 20 points a game and remains the team’s first option on offense.
“Jake in my opinion is a Player of the Year candidate with all the hard work he’s done,” Devine said.
This year Thaw can have an off night and the Wreckers can still succeed. Benny Feuer and Lucas Basich are double-figure scorers, while Teddy Dienst and AJ Konstanty also make important contributions.
“I just think the balance makes a difference,” Devine said. “One of the best parts about this team is how hard they work, the defense they play. If one of our leading scorers doesn’t have a good night someone is there to pick him up. I think that’s going to be a key to our success from now until March.”
Devine said it is on the defensive end where the Wreckers may be most impressive — and pick up wins that were losses in past seasons.
“When you have such a balanced league defense travels,” Devine said. “When you’re not making shots on the road you have to get stop after stop. I think that’s going to be a huge part of our success this year, our defense.”
Devine is one of the FCIAC’s best coaches, but due to the absence of talent most of the acclaim has come only from his colleagues.
Trite as it is, the Wreckers have been taking the one-game-at-a-time approach, including this week. They travel tomorrow to Danbury in a game between the league’s only remaining unbeaten teams. Then they return home Friday to face preseason favorite Trinity Catholic.
Don’t look too far ahead. That’s the approach,” Devine said. “We prepared for all five of our wins. We have a big week coming up.”
Getting Up To Speed
Though most teams are at least 20 percent into their seasons, it is difficult to get a read on the league so far. Some teams have good records padded against weak competition, a number have subpar records due to out-of-state losses.
I’d be shocked if Wilton is not at least in the middle of my final eight in bracketology. The Warriors are 1-3 but lost twice in Florida and had a flu-ridden team on the court against St. Joseph.
The Crusaders’ losses are against New York schools, which is why I have them in the top spot. I think we may see another two teams emerge as fixtures atop the standings and a group of about six to eight that will beat up on one another and finish with similar records.
This could be a season where we are playing the tiebreaking game to seed the conference tournament.
No. 1 Trinity Catholic (2-2) vs. No. 8 St. Joseph (2-1)
No. 2 Danbury (4-0) vs. No. 7 Brien McMahon (3-1)
No. 3 Trumbull (4-1) vs. No. 6 Fairfield Ludlowe (4-1)
No. 4 Staples (5-0) vs. No. 5 Ridgefield (3-1)