By Dave Ruden
Trinity Catholic’s 0-3 start caused a rush of thoughts, including this one: we better go back to the record books to see the last time this happened.
It was a natural reaction for one of the state’s premier programs the past two decades.
And the answer: not very far.
Three years, to be exact.
Many forget that the Crusaders’ 2011 Class M state championship team opened with three losses, finished the regular season 12-8 and barely sneaked into the FCIAC Tournament as the eighth seed. Then they had a stunning quarterfinal round upset of No. 1 St. Joseph, a game in which they trailed at one time by 20 points.
Trinity lost to Bassick in the semifinals, but caught fire and won five straight games in the state playoffs.
Reminded of this, Trinity coach Mike Walsh said, “Rarely does lightning strike twice.”
The Crusaders turned the page on the calendar year with their first win, a 60-30 decision over Moore Catholic last Saturday at St. Joseph’s holiday tournament. Their first two defeats, by six points to Bassick and three points to Trumbull, could have been wins.
The only team to blow them out, in the opening game of the St. Joseph tournament, was St. Francis Prep of New York, which beat the host team, considered an FCIAC contender, by 32 points.
“We’ve been right there in the two league games,” Walsh said. “We just didn’t have the experience to put them away.”
So should the Crusaders be written off one-fifth of the way through the season? Is there another surprising state championship run in their future?
The answers: hardly and doubtful.
Trinity right now is still finding its way after losing to graduation Schadrac Casimir and the nucleus of a team that reached and was defeated in both the league and state championship games 10 months ago.
The only returning starter, Tremaine Fraiser, is still in the process of trying to find himself as a team leader. If anything, Walsh said, Fraiser’s biggest problem has been selflessness.
“Tremaine has done a good job of bringing the team along,” Walsh said. “He’s trying to get everyone involved to get them better, but at times Tremaine has to try and take over and make the play. Sometimes he makes the right pass but should take the shot himself.”
Fraiser is averaging 12.2 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Tyrell St. John and Aaron Wheeler will continue to get better with experience. Justice Page has played well on the defensive end, and 6-8 transfer Peace Ilgomah draws comparisons to Paschal Chukwu, when he was a raw 7-foot freshman for the Crusaders. Chukwu transferred to Fairfield Prep and next year will play at Providence. Ilgomah has great potential but is not yet the defensive player Chukwu first was.
A bigger concern for Walsh is his lack of depth. On the other hand, the way the league is this season, outside of perhaps Bridgeport Central there is not a team the Crusaders are incapable of beating.
Or losing to.
“Everyone is starting to learn their roles and doing their jobs,” Walsh said. “I think we will be much better in February. I think we can get there, but there will be a lot of close games.”
You Can’t Spell W With Easy
Bridgeport Central is the overwhelming favorite to win the FCIAC title and contend for a state championship. It would hardly be surprising to see the Hilltoppers make it through the conference season unbeaten.
But which teams are the easy victories, the ones that every coach makes politically correct statements about but know deep down will be matchstick-high obstacles?
Right now every team has at least one win. I’m not sure the last time that has happened this early in a season, but it has been a long, long time.
Case in point: many people consider St. Joseph the second-best team in the league. And even in a season of balance, nary a word was said about Fairfield Warde this preseason.
The Mustangs made the Cadets sweat before succumbing by four points.
Were your surprised? Don’t be. If you took Central out of the mix, this could be the most equitable conference I can remember. We are speaking any sport, any year.
There are 18 coaches who wish they could take Central out of the mix and fasten their seatbelts.
The Starting 5
1. Bridgeport Central (3-0). It will be in the Hilltoppers’ best interest to get a few tests before the postseason. A ridiculous comment for Jan. 2?
2. Ridgefield (3-0). Flip a coin on teams 2-5. The Tigers were second last time and have done nothing to be demoted.
3. Greenwich (4-0). See Ridgefield. The Cardinals are 2-0 in Connecticut, 2-0 in Kentucky.
4. Westhill (2-1). The Vikings have now won at St. Joseph and Bassick.
5. St. Joseph (2-2). Observers said St. Francis Prep, which beat the Cadets by 32 points, might roll through Connecticut.