You have what few would dispute are the three best teams in St. Joseph, Trinity Catholic and Bridgeport Central, and the Cinderella story in Wilton, which is making its first conference playoff appearance since 2000.
And given the way the Warriors have played since an 0-3 start, you can at least make a case that the four best teams advanced.
There are a number of good storylines, partisanship aside: Wilton is going to be the sentimental favorite on Tuesday night, Bridgeport Central-St. Joseph is going to be a war, and I still think the general fan would most like to see a St. Joseph-Trinity Catholic rematch, though I am not so certain that is going to take place.
We will break down the semifinals tomorrow. For now, here is a look back at each of Saturday’s four quarterfinals, in order of significance. (Click on the final score link to read the Hearst Connecticut game stories.
Bridgeport Central 72, Ridgefield 56: What looked like a great 4-5 contest played out as several coaches told me it would, with a dominating performance by a Hilltoppers team undaunted by their sixth game in nine days. Central is on a run, one that could easily lead to an FCIAC championship. Point guard Tyler Ancrum scored 10 points but was a dynamo running the offense; he will create matchup problems for all future opponents.
Central is a balanced team that, with ShaQuan Bretoux, Marcus Blackwell and Antoin Pettway, can have a different scoring leader every night. It is also a very stifling defensive team.
Some will call Ridgefield underachievers, but in retrospect it was probably overhyped in the preseason. No one knew St. Joseph and Trinity Catholic would be sailing along with one loss apiece. The Tigers never really had an answer for the loss of point guard Seth von Kuhn — Kurt Steidl was their best playmaker on Saturday — and their lack of team speed put them at a disadvantage against what we will now refer to as the Big 3 teams.
Much praise goes out to Steidl, who scored 29 points against Central despite being a focal point of its defense.
Wilton 66, Westhill 64 (OT): The game of the day, by a far margin, one neither team deserved to lose. Many people called this an upset, but that is doing a disservice to both teams in what was a pretty even matchup.
Eric Houska stepped up with 26 points and the Warriors overcame the loss of Weston Wilbur on fouls to hold on for a hard-fought and entertaining win. Wilton lives and dies by the 3-point shot, but its unsung hero was Olandi LeGrand, who plays bigger than 6-foot-2 and finished with 12 points and, most importantly, 12 rebounds.
Wilton’s Joel Geriak gets the vote here for FCIAC Coach of the Year.
Westhill did not play poorly, it just lost a close game to a good team. Sophomore Jeremiah Livingston is a budding star — OK, he probably already has arrived — and he put on one of the most heroic performances of the four games, scoring 15 of his 29 points in the final eight minutes or else the Vikings likely would have lost by about 6-8 points in regulation.
The glass-half-empty view is Westhill ran out of gas, with five losses in its last six games. But in the big picture, how many people at the start of the year thought it would be 15-6 at this point? The Vikings have already exceeded expectations.
Trinity Catholic 71, Norwalk 52: It is getting redundant to say, but what a joy it is watching Schadrac Casimir play. He has a streak-shooter’s mentality with a playmaker’s heart. Many will remember his 29 points, including stepping up for clutch shots each time Norwalk tried to rally. He rarely takes a bad shot and only takes over when he feels it is necessary.
It is telling that while he scored 19 points in the second half, he still finished with 8 assists, including the pass of the year, on his back hitting Brandon Wheeler in stride after losing the ball on penetration.
Casimir has just one fault: he has been so good, his teammates sometimes fail to receive the credit they deserve. Tremaine Fraiser opened the game with two 3-point shots and the Crusaders never looked back. He played a great all-around game, as did Brandon Wheeler inside.
And when they are on the good side of consistent, which has been more often than not, Danny O’Leary and Neno Merritt have been valuable role players who often go overlooked.
As for Norwalk, it is the team that seems to confound opposing coaches the most. I’ve seen the Bears play three times now, and they have a lot of talent but just no chemistry. It is usually five good pieces to a puzzle that just don’t fit.
St. Joseph 77, Greenwich 56: Though the Cadets have lost as the No. 1 seed the last two years, this is the game where I really didn’t give the underdog much of a shot. To the Cardinals’ credit, they showed great grit in rallying in the fourth quarter when many had started to exit.
This game was further evidence that no player in the league dominates in more ways than Quincy McKnight, who can do it scoring, rebounding or on the defensive end.
Five different players scored 8 or more points for the Cadets. Quality depth has been a big reason for their success.