RUDEN: Time for Trinity Catholic boys to enjoy a great season
Updated 9:57 pm, Monday, March 18, 2013
The statute of limitations is over. The members of the Trinity Catholic boys basketball team can commence appreciating their accomplishments this season.
That was a luxury they were not afforded -- or would afford themselves -- Saturday afternoon, in the immediate aftermath of their 52-49 loss to Woodstock Academy in the CIAC Class L championship game.
It goes against human nature to arrive at a title game as the No. 1 seed, as a favorite, and in the short term fall back on the words every coach and player uses moments after a bitter loss: "No one can take away the season we had. No one expected us to be here."
The Crusaders no doubt spent the rest of their weekend, and will forever go back in their mental DVRs, thinking of what might have been. They picked the wrong night to play their worst game of the season.
The FCIAC final loss to Bridgeport Central was easier to shake off. The Hilltoppers were a surging team, the Crusaders put up a tough fight, and there was still a state final to pursue.
Though the Crusaders had the superior personnel, Woodstock Academy played better together. For the first time this year -- including the third loss, to St. Joseph -- there was no rhythm on offense and a frustration that set in as the game went on, evidenced by Trinity's 29 3-point attempts and 28 2-point shots.
So let's go back to that statute of limitations. Trite as it may have sounded late Saturday, the truth is the Crusaders did surpass what looked reasonable back in December, when they were viewed as a team looking at getting a middle FCIAC Tournament seed.
For one, the so-called Big 3 individually far exceeded expectations. And you have to start with Schadrac Casimir.
Insiders will tell you Casimir was capable of dominating as a junior, but subjugated his scoring ability both in deference to older teammates and to not disrupt a team chemistry that anchored the Crusaders' full potential.
That made the jump in Casimir's play this year seem even more seismic than it might have been. The soft-spoken, impossible-to-dislike guard was supposed to be good, not GOOD.
Casimir dominated all season, hitting jump shots, scoring off the dribble and drives, and getting himself to the foul line. He made a mockery of the FCIAC All-Defensive Team he was omitted from. (Memo: coaches in almost every sport have a hard enough time identifying the league's top players; don't put the burden of making them pick the best defenders as well.)
Casimir scored 722 points this year, which is almost certainly a school record. To put his value in the most stark terms, no Trinity player during this 20-year run has ever had a better individual season. Rashamel Jones, Earl Johnson, Torey Thomas, Craig Austrie and Dave McClure had years that might have been as good, but none better. Casimir will forever be mentioned in their company.
Brandon Wheeler and Tremaine Fraiser also played at a much higher level than expected. Wheeler was the team's most improved player; he might have been the FCIAC's most improved player. His ability as complementary scorer and efficient rebounder was invaluable.
Fraiser came into the season as a wild card, the kind of talent that, if harnessed properly, could tilt a season in either direction. An untamed pony in December, Fraiser matured into the Crusaders' most versatile player, able to score, rebound and find open teammates for easy baskets.
The "Other 3" or "Unsung 3," or whatever you want to label the trio, made contributions in their own ways. Danny O'Leary, the master at taking the charge, was a strong rebounder, Tyrell St. John saw his confidence and productivity grow in correlation with his increased minutes the past few weeks, and Neno Merritt provided grit.
Stir it all up in the blender and you have a 25-3 team that coach Mike Walsh would gladly have signed up for three months ago.
But once the season played out and the contenders and pretenders were separated, it became apparent that the Crusaders had the means to capture one if not both postseason titles.
It was not to be.
Instead, the Trinity players can take comfort in a season all but a handful of teams now envy.
But one that will leave the players who came to expect more to always wonder what might have been.
email@example.com; Twitter: @DaveRuden