WESTPORT — Mike Walsh told his new Trinity Catholic girls basketball players that he was probably more nervous than they were before the start of tonight’s game against Staples.
Don’t worry, standout senior Iyanna Lops told the legendary coach, the Crusaders would have his back.
The 6-foot-1 Lops recorded a triple double, with 23 points, 16 rebounds and 10 blocks, to lead the Crusaders to a 68-49 FCIAC win over the host Wreckers.
“That makes a coach look good,” Walsh quipped after getting his 634th career victory, but first as a girls coach after stepping in to take over the program this week when Mike Martino resigned suddenly for personal reasons.
“I had them for one day and I was so impressed with how they played,” Walsh added. “They did whatever I asked of them, they worked hard and it carried over to today. This team can only get better and better.”
Kyah Nowlin added 18 points to the winning effort for Trinity, which improved to 6-1, while Emma Garner netted 10 more.
Caitlyn Scott added seven points but was even more vital in helping Trinity Catholic break Staples’ array of full-court presses.
“I thought Caitlyn Scott was the key to the game,” Walsh said. “She’s a one-man press breaker — one-woman press breaker, I should say. She handled it well and we got layups on the other end.”
Trinity’s athleticism was definitely a big difference against Staples, which played scrappy and hung around until the Crusaders clinched the game with a strong finishing kick.
That surge — which came courtesy of a 21-6 run — actually started in the third quarter after the Wreckers had cut a 14-point Trinity lead to five at 42-37.
Lops hit a pull-up jumper, stole the ball and finished the layup to kick things off. Nowlin added a basket from down low, giving the Crusaders a 48-37 lead heading into the final quarter.
“It means a lot. I really like Coach Walsh,” Nowlin said. “I wanted to win for him and the team because we really deserved it.”
Staples cut the advantage back to eight early in the fourth, but Garner scored four straight points to start a 13-1 run that opened the lead to 20 at 63-43.
“Give them all the credit in the world,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “Those girls were phenomenal players and we just couldn’t stop them. We haven’t played a girl as good as Lops. And Nowlin, she was awesome. She wasn’t on our radar as much as she should have been.”
The Wreckers, who were led by Elle Fair’s 11 points and Nicole Holmes’ 10 points, slipped to 5-3 with their second straight defeat.
“Our goal is to be good in FCIACs and at the state tournament, so we’ll just learn from this,” Fabian said.
With Trinity being under Walsh’s tutelage for just over 24 hours, the veteran coach has liked what he has seen so far and is looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I’m enjoying the first one anyways,” Walsh said. “I really look forward to doing something with these girls. I think they can be really successful. This was really fun.”
And if the nerves are still moving forward, Walsh can be rest assured his latest group of Crusaders will have his back.