WESTPORT — The factors that will ultimately determine whether Trinity Catholic lives up to its potential and wins an FCIAC boys basketball championship were as clearly defined by the difference in the first and second halves tonight in Westport.
The Crusaders opened the game with the undisciplined play that hints at lapses in cohesion and were unable to match the early intensity from Staples. They left the court at halftime down, 29-25.
When they returned, there was better ball movement, a tougher effort on the defensive end and scoring help to take the pressure off of Contavio Dutreil. The result was a 58-49 win in the league opener for both teams, which evened Trinity’s record at 2-2 heading into a week-long break.
“Overall I was happy with the second half,” Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. “I don’t know if it was bad chemistry or Staples came with a lot of energy and we didn’t. We’ve got a target on our back. I try to tell the guys that. Every team is going to play their A game against us. We better be ready or we’re going to lose.”
Dutreil finished with 23 points despite not scoring in the final period, dominated on the boards and sent one Staples shot back faster than it was delivered with a ferocious block.
“He’s a player,” Walsh said. “He does some great things. Obviously they have nobody to stop him but I don’t know if a lot of teams do. Now that he has decided once he gets the ball he doesn’t have to shoot and can kick it out and hit somebody for a layup.”
Dutreil is a given, but it is the players around him that will ultimately determine the Crusaders’ fate. The play of Stephon McGill tonight was a source of encouragement. He scored all but two of his 14 points in the second half.
“As we kept on moving the ball it lets me get open,” McGill said. “As they are collapsing on Contavio it leaves me open shots.”
McGill’s offensive play was not the most critical part of his effort.
“He also got good passes to people too,” Walsh said. “Anytime a point guard can make good passes you can score but I thought the most impressive part was defensively. I thought he revved up the defense denying No. 1, who’s a very nice player for a freshman.”
Walsh was referring to Luke Murphy, the Wreckers’ promising guard. He made three 3-pointers in the second quarter and tied Max Sussman for team scoring honors at halftime with 9 points. Murphy was held to just 5 after the break, while Sussman went scoreless until putting up 8 straight points during a 55-second span late in the game.
That helped really Staples (1-1) within 54-49 before the Crusaders pulled away at the end.
“They obviously pose a matchup problem for us,” Staples coach Colin Devine said. “I thought we did a really good job for the majority of the game. The kids played really hard and with intensity. We just came up a little short in the end.”
AJ Konstanty added 9 points for the Wreckers, who will be an interesting team to follow this winter because they have good outside shooters and are very disciplined.
“I think their pressure got to us a little bit in the fourth quarter,” Devine said. I’m awfully proud of the effort and I think we took a step forward tonight. If we can continue to do that we’ll do OK. We played well in a loss but we want to make sure it’s a W next time.”
McGill seemed to have his finger on the pulse of the Crusaders and the poor habits that need to be avoided.
“The first half we started off bad but we went to the locker room and talked about it and the second half we played like a team,” he said. “We spoke to each other. We said we have to come together and play for each other and not for ourselves. It’s too much one on ones. We want everybody to share the ball. Have everyone score. Today was my day and tomorrow it will be somebody else’s.”
Asked to assess his team with one more non-league game left in the calendar year, Walsh said, “I thought we could be a little bit better making good decisions with the ball and I thought we could be a little bit better defensively. But that’s early in the season. It takes a while. I’m kind of glad for the break.”