It was outhustled and outsmarted for much of Tuesday night. And if not for superior athleticism, the Trinity Catholic boys basketball team might have been outscored as well.
Instead, the Crusaders did just enough to come away with a 53-47 win over a Fairfield Ludlowe team that has been giving opponents fits all season.
"Because of our talent we were able to win," Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. "Ludlowe is scrappy, they play hard and they really run their sets well. At times I thought we were lazy on defense. Down the road we can't expect to play like this and win a tournament game."
Schadrac Casimir, who overcame a slow start to finish with 16 points, might have offered an analysis that could be uttered by every FCIAC player and coach this season.
"I don't look at it as playing down to another team's level," said the sure-shooting guard. "Everyone in the league is good. In the FCIAC you can't go off records. We are not a team with six Division I players. We are not going to win off talent like past Trinity Catholic teams. A win is a win. We have to play hard."
Tremain Fraiser finished with a game-high 19 points for the Crusaders (14-1, 12-1 FCIAC), who played with a lead for the final 13 minutes, but one that was not totally secure until Casimir's layup, off a steal and assist by Neno Merritt, put them ahead, 49-42, with 2:42 left.
Ludlowe also lost one of its key players, Mark Malone, with 3:12 remaining when he got hit in the head following a collision with Fraiser. The game was delayed for 20 minutes as Malone was immobilized and then taken away on a stretcher.
Dailey said Malone would need stitches and possibly sustained a concussion, but the injury did not appear more serious. Malone gave a thumbs-up sign to the crowd as he was wheeled out.
Ludlowe (7-8, 6-7) was within 44-40 before Fraiser completed what became a 3-point play that changed the complexion of the game.
The Falcons, outmanned on many nights, have kept themselves on the cusp of an FCIAC Tournament berth by dictating tempo, playing fundamentally sound and lulling opponents -- exactly what happened for long stretches on Tuesday.
"Their dribble penetration hurt us, and Fraiser and Casimir are terrific athletes and terrific players," Dailey said. "They really hurt us, but I thought our kids played their hearts out all night. We played tremendous defense, shot the ball decently and hung around. I couldn't ask for a better effort."
Connor Peterson led the Falcons with 17 points. Pat Gutierrez added 12.
Ludlowe never allowed the Crusaders to sustain momentum or break the game open.
Trinity scored 8 unanswered points, ending with Casimir's double-clutch jumper on the opening possession of the second half, for a 28-20 lead.
Ludlowe came right back with its own 8-0 run to tie the score.
"On defense we didn't talk, basically," Walsh said. "We didn't switch. We thought we could do it without working hard, and you can't play defense without working hard."
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TRINITY CATHOLIC 53, FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 47
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (7-8, 6-7 FCIAC)
Danny Santella 0 0-0 0; Matt Doyle 1 0-0 3; Chad Peterson 0 0-0 0; Mark Malone 3 0-0 7; Pat Gutierrez 4 2-2 12; Stephen Scholz 4 0-0 8; Connor Peterson 7 3-6 17; Brent Pfeiffer 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19 5-8 47.
TRINITY CATHOLIC (14-1, 12-1 FCIAC)
Schadrac Casimir 6 4-4 16; Tremain Fraiser 7 3-4 19; Brandon Wheeler 3 3-6 9; Neno Merritt 4 0-0 8; Tyrell St. John 0 0-0 0; Danny O'Leary 0 1-2 1. TOTALS: 20 11-16 53.
LUDLOWE 10 10 13 14--47
TRINITY CATHOLIC 8 18 13 14--53
3-point shots: FL--Doyle, Malone, Gutierrez 2; TC--Fraiser 2.