TRUMBULL — There were missed free throws, ill-advised shots, poor decision making and panic moves.
And the Trinity Catholic boys basketball team, four minutes away from its biggest win of the season, saw a 15-point lead over Trumbull whittled down to two in the final seconds.
“I was nervous,” said Dutreil Contavio, the Crusaders’ jumping bean and biggest impact player, who said he was thinking, “Let’s keep it up, we have to work on our defense.”
Contavio blocked two shots and made three of four free throws in the final 16 seconds and the Crusaders came away with a 71-66 decision tonight over Trumbull, in line for the top seed in the FCIAC Tournament heading into the final week of the regular season.
“It was a good win for us,” Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. “I think we learned a lot from tonight’s game. We played an excellent second quarter, especially defensively. The fourth quarter, we have to learn how to put games away. Missing five foul shots is not easy, especially when they are one and one. But I’ll take the win.”
The Crusaders (12-5, 9-5 FCIAC) were actually just 6 of 15 from the line in the final quarter. But one of Walsh’s biggest criticisms of his team has been an inability to play smart with leads late in games. This time there was bending but no break, as there might have been a few weeks ago.
“I think going forward it’s going to help us but it just goes to show what it is going to be like in the FCIAC Tournament,” Walsh said. “Anything can happen.”
Four teams that have either clinched or are on the verge tonight lost to teams either positioned lower or out of the race. The playoff chase has morphed into the balance most of us expected. The current two through eight seeds are separated by just one game in the loss column. If the playoffs had started tonight, Trumbull and Trinity would have been the 1-8 game. Most would agree the line would be close to pick-em on a neutral court.
Trinity was due for a big win and the Eagles, who have done a remarkable job in close games, were due to see one go the wrong way.
“Buddy Bray has done a great job coaching this team,” Walsh said of his counterpart at Trumbull. “He has them playing together. Down the stretch they didn’t give up and they were a blink of an eye away from tying things up and going to overtime, and I couldn’t take that.”
Dutreil, who along with Darien’s Alex Preston are the two players capable of having the biggest impact on outcomes, is the league’s most athletic talent, and he has been coming on strong. He finished with 24 points, 10 in the final quarter. Defensively, like Preston, he alters shots.
“People don’t realize how good he can be,” Walsh said. “I think he’s coming on. I think next year he could be a pretty big-time player.”
Dimitry Moise added 22 points, including four 3-pointers. He is not as comfortable going inside, or combined with Contavio they would force opponents to sit on the perimeter. Many coaches have felt the Crusaders have the best talent in the league. Walsh has always thought the potential was there, but the basketball IQ has to catch up to ability.
“We have to work hard on defense,” Contavio said. “I think we’re the best team. We have some stuff to correct and I think we can win the FCIAC.”
Trinity will need to get consistent play from the backcourt. Cameron Blake finished with 11 points and Pete Galgano added 10, and for the most part did a good job running the offense.
No reason to press the panic button in Trumbull. The Eagles are 16-2 over all and are one win or a Darien loss away from winning the regular season title. JJ Pfohl scored 22 points, while Danny Ruchalski, Johnny McElroy and Timmond Williams finished with 11 apiece.
Brien McMahon loses to Warde one night, then turns around and spanks Wilton. The Mustangs come back and fall to Fairfield Ludlowe. Danbury loses to Greenwich.
This will be the most wide open tournament in FCIAC history because it will have the least separation between the eight teams. And the one that began tonight as the lowest seed is very much in the mix.
“We started to play together 60 percent of the game,” Walsh said, “and if we can ever get to 100 percent I think we’ll be tough to beat.”