Considering the boys basketball season opened with me lying in a hospital bed and was 20 percent over before I attended my first game, from a purely personal viewpoint I can say without equivocation the year got better as it went on.
I’m pretty certain the fans feel the same way.
It didn’t take long to find the rally cap, starting at Stamford High School, which barely lost to Westhill. A theme was set.
Not surprisingly, the year ended with the Vikings involved in another close game, this time nearly 100 miles upstate at Mohegan Sun Arena, with their quest for a first state title ended on a missed shot at the buzzer.
Color the 2014-15 season purple, though there were many shades in between. My second game of the year? Wilton at Trumbull, teams that ended up semifinalists in the FCIAC Tournament before falling to the league’s two most talented teams, Westhill and Norwalk.
The Vikings started the year as slight favorites and ended it as one of the most unique champions in conference history. Surprisingly, they rolled through league play unbeaten.
Rolled is a bit heavy: as often as not games were decided by just a basket or two, yet Westhill always found a way to win, whether with a big shot or, just as often, a big stop. Jeremiah Livingston had one of the best individual seasons in league history, but just as important was the ferocity used to defend the Vikings’ basket.
It is impossible to measure, but Westhill might be the undefeated team that was closest in skill level to the rest of the league than any other. Surely it would slip up once, twice, considering the parity.
The Vikings never did. While the disappointment from Saturday’s Class LL championship loss to Fairfield Prep will take a while to heal, soon the tears will dissipate and with clear eyes the players will appreciate just what they accomplished.
Now lets hand out some awards.
Player Of The Year: Jeremiah Livingston, Westhill. The closest thing there was to a lock this year. One reason the Vikings won so many close games is Livingston closed. He always had the ball in his hands down the stretch, which earned him repeated trips to the foul line, where he was almost infallible.
Livingston played the game at a pace few could match. The enduring picture will be of him speeding past a backpedaling defender for an easy layup. Or sometimes a hard one, finding an opening amid a wall of arms blocking his path.
There was a lot to debate in the sport this year. Livingston as MVP was not one of them.
Coach Of The Year: Howard White, Westhill. This decision was made before the playoffs, and it wasn’t made easily. The coaches voted for Fairfield Ludlowe’s John Dailey, and it is difficult to argue. The Falcons exceeded expectations, finishing with the second-best record during the regular season. Trumbull’s Buddy Bray should have generated greater attention after his team peaked during the stretch run.
But in the end, White deserves and gets the nod. The Vikings were not a team that just needed a push onto the court and the balls rolled out. White instilled a confidence that made his players believe they were going to win no matter the circumstances, and did the best job of his career as a defensive strategist. Westhill always was in the proper alignment to take away an opponent’s strength.
For White, it was a job well done.
Most Underrated Player: Chad Peterson, Fairfield Ludlowe. Peterson so mastered his role that by February he was very rated.
Peterson was one of the few who could take over games without possession of the ball. His job each night was to shut down an opponent’s best scorer, one he performed with disarming consistency.
Peterson was not a marquee name in December. That soon changed.
All-FCIAC Top 20
Jeremiah Livingston, Westhill
Roy Kane, Norwalk
Matt Shifrin, Wilton
Tyrell St. John, Trinity Catholic
T.J. Killings, Harding
Marcus Blackwell, Central
Kwe Askew, Stamford
Rashard Rodriguez, Trumbull
Matt Doyle, Ludlowe
Zaire Wilson, Norwalk
Gianni Carwin, Stamford
Tyrell Alexander, Westhill
Curhone Baldwin, Bassick
Kobe Ancrum, Bassick
Chad Peterson, Ludlowe
CJ Donaldson, Westhill
Ed McElroy, Trumbull
Tysheen McCrea, Danbury
Scott Shouvlin, Wilton
Claude Chandonnet, New Canaan
Comment: I copped out with six players on the first two teams because I was split between the last one on each, and thus decided to go with the 20-player concept…How does the leading scorer in the league, playing on a team without another offensive weapon, get left off the first team? An eight-player first team? A wrong done in the league voting to Trinity’s St. John is righted here…One component shared by the top six players? Consistency throughout the season.
Until next year…