The league’s lone two private schools have had the most success during that time, and almost all of their meetings have been closely played and memorable.
The Crusaders will never forget Jonathan Boykin’s half-court game-winning shot at the buzzer several years ago to open the season, or their 20-point comeback in the opening round of the FCIAC Tournament two seasons ago as the No. 8 seed.
The Cadets have won the last two regular season meetings and, save for a slip up against Wilton, have lost just one game and not fallen as far as many expected after losing coach Vito Montelli, center Timajh Parker and point guard James Jennings following last season’s state championship.
Likewise, the Crusaders were expected to slip to the middle of the pack after Kevin Leumene graduated and Paschal Chukwu and Jason Boswell transferred. But Schadrac Casimir, Brandon Wheeler (I will have a story on him in The Advocate later this week) and Tremaine Fraiser have stepped up their games to another level, and the role players thus far have made enough contributions.
The big question for their latest meeting will be how the Crusaders handle what I expect will be St. Joseph’s full-court pressure and their ability to rebound in what will be a pressure-packed atmosphere..
Some general observations
Some general observations from the past week:
— I spoke to Ridgefield coach Carl Charles about his star player, Kurt Steidl, who took a bad fall Friday night at the end of a loss to Norwalk. Charles said Steidl will be OK and play Wednesday night in a non-league game against Masuk.
— When was the last time a team scored 67 combined points in two games and won both? Fairfield Ludlowe accomplished that feat, defeating Brien McMahon and Staples, the latter on Patrick Gutierrez’s last-second shot. Dean Smith and Terry Holland were nowhere to be found on the sidelines. The Falcons have played nearly every opponent tough by dictating tempo. An intriguing team to keep an eye on.
— I watched Norwalk lose to Westhill and came away with the same feeling I had after its loss to Trinity earlier in the year: This is a very nice team that seems to be missing one piece from being a legitimate championship contender. Maybe it is better point guard play. It is hard to pinpoint, but the Bears rebounded Friday to hand Ridgefield its second loss so don’t wipe them off the potential title chasers list just yet.
— The personnel is not as good as recent teams, but this is the most enjoyable Westhill team to watch in recent memory. The lack of stars has actually benefited team chemistry. Sophomore guard Jeremiah Livingston is going to be an impact player, Yveson Cassmajor is an unheralded contributor and this is the Vikings’ best defensive team in years. Wins over Norwalk and then against Bassick in a rematch with the team that handed them their lone loss were very impressive. Again, a team that may be just short of winning an FCIAC title, but a team no one will want to see in the playoffs.
— Stamford coach Danny Melzer kept his team in the locker room for 20 minutes following Friday’s 69-35 shellacking by Trinity Catholic in a game that was both not as close as the final score would indicate and hardly seemed like a city rivalry. The Black Knights are really down this year so don’t read much into Melzer’s first season as head coach. He will do a good job once he gets some players.
The Starting 5
1. TRINITY CATHOLIC (8-0): NO ONE expected the Crusaders to be unbeaten at this point. We will see if they emerge from this week unscathed.
2. ST. JOSEPH (8-1): I’m not sure seeding is going to be as important this year as in the past for the FCIAC Tournament, but the Cadets don’t want to fall two games behind Trinity without a tiebreaker. Then again, St. Joseph has never fared well as the top seed.
3. WESTHILL (7-1): I think people are waiting for the Vikings to tumble, but is hasn’t happened. They make their initial appearance here in the third spot based on two quality wins.
4. BRIDGEPORT CENTRAL (6-1): The Hilltoppers have been hiding quietly. They have also won six straight games since a season-opening loss to Trinity.
5. RIDGEFIELD (6-2): Were the Tigers hyped up too much in the preseason? Are they merely a very good team rather than a favorite? Right now the answer seems to fall somewhere in the middle.