The Trinity Catholic boys basketball team has endured growing pains so far this season while fielding a young-yet-talented starting five.
After dropping numerous close games to FCIAC contenders, the Crusaders put it all together Tuesday on both ends of the court to notch their first conference win of the season.
Tremaine Frasier (25 points, seven assists) and Aaron Wheeler (21 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) combined for 46 points as Trinity Catholic snapped its three-game losing streak with a 63-50 win over Staples.
"We've lost a lot of close games," Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. "We've been there; it's just a question of learning how to win and obviously it helps to get a win like this."
Narrow defeats to Trumbull (60-57), Wilton (59-56) and Ludlowe (59-54) put Trinity (2-6, 1-5 FCIAC) in an early-season hole, but the Crusaders are learning how to win.
"I think we are still learning," Walsh said. "We start four underclassmen and it's going to take us a little time to get where we want to be. Hopefully it's by the end of the season."
The Crusaders enjoyed success behind the arc Tuesday, hitting three in the first quarter to jump out to a 18-10 lead and seven for the game, including five by Wheeler, a sophomore.
"(Wheeler) had some big shots for us," Walsh said. "He also had 10 rebounds, which is a big positive. He did a great job and I thought Frasier did a great job moving the ball and making pretty good decisions."
The Wreckers got 20 points from David Katz, who hit six 3-pointers. The Crusaders gave little room to anyone else on the court. Missed layups and turnovers doomed any hopes of a Staples comeback in the third quarter. The Crusaders led 50-33 after three quarters.
"(Defense) was the key to the game, especially early in the first half and the third quarter," Walsh said. "(Staples) is a tough team to stop and Katz was on fire but we were still able to hold them; as a team I thought we played some pretty good defense."
A big momentum shift occurred late in the second quarter. Leading 29-20 late with 1:56 left in the first half, the Crusaders ran 1:21 off the block before finding Wheeler for a wide open 3-pointer. Although Darryle Wiggins (nine points) responded with a layup for Staples, Tyrell St. John hit an off-balance shot at the buzzer to give Trinity a double-digit halftime lead.
"We talk about finishing possessions," Staples coach Colin Devine said. "We play great defense for 45 seconds and then not block out. It's stuff like that."
Trinity kept its foot on the pedal in the fourth quarter, extending its lead to 26 before the reserves entered the court. The Crusaders blocked eight shots, including four by Peace Ilegomah (six points).
"(Trinity) applied some good man-to-man pressure," Devine said. "We really just couldn't get anything going. Katz stuck some shots but they were a step ahead of us tonight."
The Wreckers dropped to 2-6 with the defeat, their fourth straight.
"We have to play our best basketball at the end of the year and that's our goal," Devine said. "We have 12 games to go and we have to make the best of them."
Staples has also played the last three games without guard/forward Andrew Felman. The senior scored 17 points in a 62-58 loss to Bassick Dec. 20 and brings a lot to the court.
"(Felman) is a very good basketball player and has a very good basketball IQ in all aspects," Devine said. "He's a leader, handles the ball, an extra shooter and rebounder."