There is almost no common bond between the Trinity Catholic boys and Trumbull girls basketball teams, outside of the first letter in the school names and Jack Kelly, a teacher at the former and assistant coach at the latter.
But now they share one big link: they are the last two FCIAC teams standing as the season comes to an end this championship weekend at Mohegan Sun.
The Crusaders have been long on potential but short on execution for much of the season, but gained traction in the Class S Tournament by regrouping after their biggest disappointment of the year.
The Eagles do little that stands out to the common fan. There are few highlights to capture on your iPhone and tweet out to the public. That is because they are the epitome of a team. Their games should be videoed — to be used by other coaches as an example, trite but true, of the rewards when five operate as one.
The Crusaders will be playing in their 13th state final since 1995. Mike Walsh, two days before his 70th birthday, will be chasing his seventh title.
The Eagles are making just their third championship appearance. They are 1-1, winning in 2002.
Trumbull’s road to a 26-1 mark is one of the more remarkable accomplishments in recent FCIAC history. It is going for a Class LL three-peat for the conference. A year ago Stamford was led by Tiana England. In 2015, Wilton’s Erin Cunningham had one of the greatest performances in state championship history.
The Eagles’ Claudia Tucci is somewhat similar in impact to Cunningham. She is averaging 17 points and 9 rebounds, and is the player Trumbull will try to go to if a big basket is needed.
But because the Eagles play at a more methodical pace — predictably they have scored between 44 and 47 points in their four previous Class LL games — they are even more reliant on a collaborative effort, especially on the defensive end of the court.
Taylor Brown, the team’s second-leading scorer, was perhaps the FCIAC’s most underrated player. A third senior starter, point guard Victoria Ray, has contributed along with juniors Julie Keckler and Aisling Maguire.
Coach Steve Tobitsch, who gives his team an edge from the sideline most nights and never a disadvantage, has a bench that can contribute.
Still, for those who followed the Eagles during the FCIAC season, one would have thought they might have slipped up more than just one late regular season game against Fairfield Warde. In terms of talent, they were similar to teams like Stamford, Ridgefield and the Mustangs.
But those teams at some point had a bad night. The Eagles have not had one, and when you can play good defense and as an ensemble, and have no exploitable weaknesses, you end up playing for a title on the final night of the season.
The Crusaders, on the other hand, have been much more mercurial, capable of looking good and bad, often minutes apart. That was the case in the first round of an FCIAC Tournament many thought they could win, until they squandered a double-digit second-half lead against Wilton.
That, coach Mike Walsh said, was the motivating drive to their Class S run. The Crusaders trailed by 13 points at the start of the fourth quarter yesterday against WCA, then won the final eight minutes, 31-11 — despite missing 10 free throws.
Trinity has a Divison I talent in junior Dutreil Contavio, who finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks. He is a dominant player who will have to avoid foul trouble in the final against top-seeded Westbrook, which has three players 6-3 or taller.
The Crusaders have been able to overcome lapses in winning 10 of their last 11 games, but they are going to have to summon consistency from their guards and secondary scoring from Dimitry Moise to win their 20th game of the year and first title since 2011.
Ironically, this would be their first in Class S. They have won at M, L, LL and the old Division I.
Trumbull will have to ride the same formula that has carried it to this point against New London, which started the year 16-0 and has lost just twice in a four-game stretch at the end of the regular season.
By tomorrow night, despite their dissimilarities, Trinity and Trumbull could share the one commonality that matters most: state championships.