STAMFORD — In a game desperately searching for a hero, the Westhill boys basketball team took a first step toward the Stamford city title with a 52-45 win over Trinity Catholic on Tuesday night because its coach, Howard White, held the hand with the highest card.
That ace was Tyrell Alexander, whose dominant performance, including 8 points down the stretch, made the difference.
“Being a senior leader that Coach wanted me to be, I had to take the ball and do what I had to do,” said Alexander, who finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. “It just came to me.”
If Westhill (5-4, 2-3 FCIAC), which was in danger of losing for the third straight time, is going to have a chance to defend its league title, it will need more nights like this from Alexander, one of the few players in the league capable of taking over a game.
“That’s what we needed and that’s something we talked about the last couple of days with Tyrell, and he basically did take over and that’s what he needs to do,” said White. “Come in every night and be Tyrell Alexander and take over.”
It has been a season of transition for the Vikings, who lost most of their major minutes from a year ago to graduation, and for Alexander, who dominates not demonstratively but within the flow of play. He has always been suited to play off another player. Last year it was Jeremiah Livingston.
This year that other player has yet to emerge, leaving Alexander to go stretches without touches when the Vikings have desperately needed the ball in his hands.
Westhill was able to capitalize on the Crusaders’ mistakes with the ball, often getting the ball to Alexander in transition, where he is particularly effective, not just scoring but as a playmaker.
“That was the biggest piece that we talked about at halftime, once we rebound lets run,” White said. “Push the ball up court and attack the basket and get Tyrell going, and that’s what he did in the second half.”
Parish Rowell added 9 points for the Vikings, who again had their own problems with turnovers, but were able to make enough plays down the stretch.
Trinity (5-3, 2-2) took a 35-33 lead into the final quarter, but was held scoreless for nearly 3 1/2 minutes, while the Vikings ran off eight unanswered points to take a lead they would not relinquish. It started, fittingly enough, with Alexander scoring out on the break and finished with his scoop shot, prompting a timeout.
“The difference was Tyrell Alexander,” Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. “He just made good shots.”
The Crusaders were hurt by the absence of Jon Lyons, their leading scorer, who became ill before the game and was unavailable. Without him there was no perimeter threat and the offense was disjointed.
Dmitry Moisie scored 21 points, but he was the lone weapon as Trinity demonstrated that it is going to be a team all over the map this winter. There will be nights where the athleticism will be good enough, and others where the rawness of that talent becomes a liability.
“We didn’t make good decisions,” Walsh said. “We made turnovers at the wrong times. They made turnovers. It was both teams going at each other. I’m disappointed with the loss. You get frustrated but the future will be good. Some nights we will look good.”
Westhill enters games against New Canaan and Staples where it will be favored. With a stretch after that includes many teams of comparable ability, White said it is important not to give any games away because of poor decision making.
“I needed this in a big way,” White said of Tuesday’s win. “One game at a time. Each team in this league capable of beating everybody.”
Fortunately for White, holding an ace like Alexander more often than not should make for a winning hand.