NEW CANAAN -- Following a sluggish effort against Darien that came close to resulting in the biggest upset of the FCIAC season, Trinity Catholic boys basketball coach Mike Walsh spent a majority of the next two practices harping on defensive intensity.
The result was on display Friday night at New Canaan. The Crusaders jumped out to a 10-0 lead less than three minutes in and never let up, rolling to a 63-38 win against an opponent that was expected to finish near the bottom of the standings but instead is in contention for both league and state playoff spots.
"After a dismal performance on Tuesday, we had a much better performance today," Walsh said. "We worked on it and the kids responded. We played with a lot of energy on defense. Once we got ahead it was difficult for them to come back."
Tremain Fraiser, in one of his most complete games of the season, led the Crusaders with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
"I don't want to say it was like we fooled around, but we didn't practice hard and it showed against Darien," Fraiser said. "We worked hard and I think it showed today in the game. We just wanted to make a statement. We're not a bad team. Just because Darien was close with us, a lot of people read into that."
Schadrac Casimir, taunted by the New Canaan fans, opened the game hitting a 3-point shot and finished with 18 points and four assists.
Casimir's greatest contribution, however, was his hounding effort on Andrew Read, the Rams' leading scorer. Read finished with just five points, but he had just one basket before hitting a 3-point shot against the Crusaders' reserves with just over one minute remaining.
"Schadrac was able to shut their point guard down," Walsh said. "I know Schadrac is known for his offense, but he can play defense. He shut a good player down pretty good."
Brandon Wheeler, with a scout from Marist in attendance to watch him, played another consistent game, finishing with 17 points.
The Crusaders improved to 12-1 over all and 9-1 in league play heading into one of their biggest games of the regular season, at home against Ridgefield on Tuesday night.
Mike Evans, the Rams' first-year coach, has earned deserved praise for leading a team that is far exceeding preseason expectations. But he admitted feeling helpless trying to jump-start his players.
"Technically we definitely had trouble with their speed, but I think more of it was mental with us," Evans said. "When we got out of it we were done. I knew early on. We read the name on the jersey and played against that than the guys on the court."
Zach Allen, coming off an outstanding season for the Rams' football team, gave Trinity trouble in the paint early, scoring 10 straight points for his team in a 6 1/2 minute stretch. But with Wheeler playing more assertively despite a height disadvantage, Allen scored just 4 more points over the final 22 1/2 minutes.
No other player scored more than six points as the Rams dropped to 5-8 overall and 5-6 in the FCIAC.
"They did a good job taking Read out of the game," Evans said. "What Schadrac did was make all of Andrew's possessions difficult."
Trinity and Ridgefield will enter the game third and fourth, respectively, in the league rankings.
"They were the preseason No. 1 that everyone picked to win the league and they are coming into our house," Walsh said. "We hope to give them a good game."
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TRINITY CATHOLIC 63, NEW CANAAN 38
TRINITY CATHOLIC (11-1, 9-1 FCIAC)
Schadrac Casimir 6 3-4 18; Tremaine Fraiser 9 4-5 23; Greg Hajjar 0 0-0 0; Brandon Wheeler 7 3-6 17; Neno Merritt 1 0-0 2; Justice Page 1 0-0 2; Tyrell St. John 0 0-0 0; Pat Keneally 0 0-0 0; Danny O'Leary 0 0-0 0; Mike Szemenyei 0 0-0 0; Lucas Salem 0 0-0 0; Tyler Williams 0 0-0 0; Wyatt Garyk 0 1-1 1. TOTALS: 24 11-16 63.
NEW CANAAN (5-8, 5-6 FCIAC)
Alex Curto 1 0-0 3; Andrew Read 2 0-0 5; Matt Swift 1 4-4 5; Chris DeWaele 1 1-2 3; Paul Hagopian 0 0-0 0; Erik Jager 2 0-0 6; Zach Allen 6 2-2 14; Beau Santoro 0 0-0 0; Henry Lavieri 0 2-2 2. TOTALS: 13 9-10 38.
TRINITY CATHOLIC 7 15 13 18--63
NEW CANAAN 11 5 6 16--38
3-point shots: TC--Casimir 3, Fraiser; NC--Read, Jager 2.