BRIDGEPORT -- A collective sigh of relief raced through the county Monday night as FCIAC boys basketball championship contenders found out that they would not have to deal with two-time defending champion Bassick High in this year's postseason tournament.
Perhaps the deepest sigh came from Trinity Catholic, which was fortunate to escape the Bassick Gym with a 67-60 victory Tuesday.
"Bassick is a very talented team that can play with anybody," Trinity coach Mike Walsh said after his team eliminated the Lions from the FCIAC playoff race. "I knew this was going to be a tough game."
Two-time defending league-champion Bassick (10-9, 8-9 FCIAC) would have grabbed the eighth and final playoff berth with a win Monday and a win over Staples Wednesday. Instead, they will wait for the state tournament.
"A lot of teams are happy we're out," Bassick assistant coach Bernie Lofton said. "I'm disappointed because we were looking forward to defending our title."
The Lions led most of the game and were tied at 58 with four minutes left to play. But Trinity (18-1, 16-1), led by Brandon Wheeler (24 points, 14 rebounds), Schadrac Casimir (20 points, five steals, five assists) and Tremaine Fraiser (15 points, eight boards), displayed great poise and made all the plays down the stretch. The Crusaders will likely enter the FCIAC tournament seeded second behind St. Joseph.
"It helps a lot when you have the ability to get the ball into Schadrac's hands late," Walsh said. Casimir (one turnover) was 7 for 8 from the line in the final five minutes.
Meanwhile, the young Lions, who lost all five starters from last year, turned the ball over 10 times in the final quarter (23 overall, 14 by Trinity). Demetrious Young led Bassick with 19 points while Devan Bromwell had 16 points and Dale Kirkland had 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
"At least they were hustle turnovers," Lofton said. "That's the youth in us. But it was a solid performance against one of the top teams in the state."
Four minutes into the game Bassick led 13-1 before the Crusaders woke up and got within 17-16 after the first quarter. But Trinity still trailed 33-32 at halftime and 51-49 after three quarters. The Lions led 55-53 with six minutes remaining and were all even at 58 after with 4:10 left.
"I knew we needed a good start but didn't get it," Walsh said. "But with Schadrac, this team finds a way to win. Wheeler was terrific, especially off the boards, and don't forget (Danny) O'Leary who took three charges."
Bassick committed six turnovers in the final four minutes and Trinity went 9 for 11 from the line to end Bassick's playoff hopes.
"I think 10 or 11 teams can win it," Walsh said of the tournament that begins Saturday. "Fortunately, we only have to deal with (seven) of them."
More important, perhaps is the one they won't have to deal with.
Emery Filmer is a correspondent
TRINITY 67, BASSICK 60
TRINITY (18-1, 16-1 FCIAC)
Schadrac Casimir 4 11-12 20; Tremaine Fraiser 5 4-5 15; Brandon Wheeler 9 6-9 24; Neno Merritt 0 0-0 0; Dan O'Leary 2 0-0 4; Tyrell St. John 2 0-0 4. Totals: 22-61 21-26 67
BASSICK (10-9, 8-9)
Devan Bramwell 4 6-7 16; Donald Young 0 0-0 0; AJ Brown 1 1-2 3; Dale Kirkland 4 2-2 10; Demetrius Young 7 3-3 19; Curhone Baldwin 2 1-3 6; Kobe Andrum 3 0-0 6; Keon Evans 0 0-0 0; Rajan James 0 0-0 0; David Steele 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-48 13-17 60
TRINITY 16 16 17 18--67
BASSICK 17 16 18 9--60
3-pointers: T--Casimir, Fraiser; B--Bromwell 2, De.Young 2, Baldwin.