If it seems like I have gone dark for a few days, well, I guess I have. As much as I love basketball season, this is the time of year many in the local media recharge the batteries. The fall is the busiest season, especially with four FCIAC schools playing in state football finals on the last day.
Actually there has been planning behind the scenes for some new features and videos on the site. I also have a pair of the coveted Snapchat Spectacles on the way, and a few new social media contributors anxious to try them out at games to do some cool things. If you aren’t already following The Ruden Report on Snapchat, now would be a good time. Most of the rest of this week will be for relaxing.
But I have been following both the start of boys and girls basketball closely, talked to a number of coaches, and watched the Fairfield Warde-Greenwich girls basketball game. Obviously it is too soon to get a read on how the next few months will play out, though most girls teams are now 20 percent into their schedules and there is a greater body of work in the books.
Here are a handful of some initial thoughts to take us into the new calendar year.
Fairfield Warde girls cannot avoid the injury bug. The Mustangs, with a promising three-year outlook in the late fall of 2014, now are in danger of ending it title-less with the torn ACL and MCL that will end star center Shania Osborne’s season less than two games in. Osborne was injured in the first of Warde’s two losses to Ridgefield, in the final of the Masuk Tournament. Last year Lejla Markovic played the entire year with a shoulder injury, though the Mustangs still reached the FCIAC championship.
Warde remains a dangerous team, with point guard Daja Polk and the inside-outside threat provided by Iliana Krasniqi. But now power in the paint and depth have been affected. Coach Dave Danko might have to reinvent his team to remain a contender.
Stamford girls are now the clear-cut favorite. Most people were split on the Mustangs and defending league and state champion Stamford as the preseason girls favorite. Now the Black Knights, led by Alexa Kellner, have sole possession of that target on the back. And there is much life after Tiana England. The combination of Marthe Guirand and Andrea O’Connor give Stamford a strong inside game, and Brooke Kelly has played well so far as England’s replacement running the show.
What is unknown yet is the quality of play coach Diane Burns will receive off the bench. There are a number of unproved players who will be needed to make contributions. That was one of the Black Knights strengths a year ago.
The Trumbull girls, followed by Ridgefield, are next in line. The Eagles earned this distinction with a 40-35 win at Ridgefield on Friday in a battle of unbeaten teams. As was expected, they have flourished so far by having one of the most cohesive lineups. Claudia Tucci, a returning all-conference player, is off to a good start, but Trumbull has received strong efforts by Taylor Brown and Aisling Maguire. The defense has remained a team strength.
The Tigers are similarly constructed. Any of their five players are capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night. Grace Goodwin is off to a particularly strong start, and along with Caroline Curnal the two have been nice additions in more prominent roles. Ridgefield is another team with uncertain depth at this point.
Guess who the third remaining unbeaten girls team is? It is a bit surprising that just three teams are still without a loss. What was unexpected is the team that stands atop with Stamford and Trumbull. That would be Staples, which at 5-0 actually has the best overall record at this point. The Wreckers were considered a potential sleeper two weeks ago. They got a quality win Friday over St. Joseph, which suffered its first loss and is also off to a good start. Staples had five players score six or more points, a balance that seems to be a common trait among many of the top teams so far.
Numbers stand out at start of boys season. With no team having played more than three games, it is way too premature to get on the soapbox about the boys basketball season. So far, most noteworthy are two numbers that stand out. The first, 599, is the total wins Trinity Catholic coach Mike Walsh has after a 3-0 start. The Crusaders are off this week; Walsh will go after No. 600 a week from tomorrow at St. Joseph, the first game of a tough week that includes a difficult trip to Ridgefield. … The other eye-catching number was 41: the number of points Brien McMahon’s Eric Day scored in a non-league win over Stratford. Day is the Senators’ most experienced returning player. … Call Greenwich’s Conor Harkins the buzzer-beater. His last-second shot lifted the Cardinals to a state-playoff win over Stamford last March, and Harkins struck again on Thursday to take down Darien. … Depending on the outcomes tonight, Alumni Hall might be the place to be tomorrow. Fairfield Warde could meet Fairfield Prep in the final of the holiday tournament. It would be a good measuring-stick game for the Mustangs, who started today 3-0.