STAMFORD — Contavio Dutreil draws acclaim for his acrobatic offensive play, but it is at the other end of the court where Trinity Catholic reaps the biggest benefits from its 6-5 senior center.
In a season with a paucity of top inside players who can guard the paint, Dutreil can impact games even when not sending shots back in the direction from which they were taken.
In one of the most anticipated contests of the regular season, the Crusaders ran their winning streak to nine games with a 65-57 decision against Danbury, the No. 7 team in the latest state poll. Trinity’s 12th victory in the last 13 outings was due in large part to the Hatters missing shots they normally make.
And a lot of that had to do with Dutreil’s presence.
“He was really key tonight because he altered a lot of their shots,” Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. “He had some big blocks.”
Dutreil finished with 17 points, including a show-stopping alley-oop dunk on a pass from Stephon McGill.
Teams are not accustomed to seeing shot-blockers, which makes Dutreil’s presence all the more decisive.
“This year we’ve been telling everyone we want to get touches inside and we had to drive and kick out today, and sometimes we didn’t kick out and it is tough to get a shot over him,” Danbury coach Casey Bock said. “I thought in the second half we missed shots that our guys usually make. And I thought we could have executed a little better too, but they’re a good team. McGill controlled the game and they have 35 and 5.”
Bock was referring to the uniform numbers of Dutreil and Dimitry Moise, who finished with a game-high 20 points. McGill scored 14 points, but it was in other areas where he has continued to flourish, coinciding with the Crusaders’ recent strong play.
Walsh put McGill for much of the night on the Hatters’ Javon Hernandez, one of the league’s fastest players.
“He made some big shots down the stretch, especially when they were trying to press us. I can’t say how much he’s improved since the beginning of the season,” Walsh said of McGill. “You really look at his overall performance and it’s amazing the way he’s developed, and I hope he continues to develop. He’s a key to our offense, but what people don’t realize he’s a key to our defense. He did a pretty good job on (Hernandez), who is a really quick and good guard.”
If the Crusaders didn’t already have enough weapons, Akim Joseph, a highly touted 6-4 freshman who transferred from Trinity Catholic High School in Kansas, made his debut tonight. Walsh inserted him early in the fourth quarter, with his team ahead by 10.
In just a couple of minutes, Joseph had a block, a putback and a resounding dunk when he picked up a loose ball and went in uncontested.
Joseph could sway the outlook in what is a pretty balanced top of the league come playoff time.
“He’s a young kid and he’s very athletic,” Walsh said. “He doesn’t have an idea yet what we are doing offensively and defensively. In the next three or four weeks hopefully we can teach him a few things.”
McGill said his newest teammate made his presence felt.
“He’s coming along very well,” McGill said. “He works very hard. He came out with a lot of energy and picked us up when they were starting to come back. He gave us a lift and we came out harder and better.”
The Tigers (16-5, 12-5 FCIAC) took over first place in the league, a half game ahead of Ridgefield, which is tied with them in the loss column.
Denali Burton scored 15 points to lead Danbury (13-2, 10-2). Jordan Brown added 14 and Diante Vines finished with 11.
Down by 16 midway through the fourth quarter, the Hatters got as close as seven points in the final minute.
“They made plays at the end and our guys did a good job to battle back,” Bock said. “The kids work hard and they have a lot of heart. We lost but with this group and our expectations there aren’t really any positives, but we have to fine-tune some things and rebound a little better.”