STAMFORD -- On one level, there is little needed in order to break down the Trinity Catholic boys basketball team's 84-57 home over Fairfield Warde on Thursday night.
The Crusaders had little trouble with an opponent that could match them in effort, but not talent.
But after two lackluster performances, with a difficult week on deck and the playoffs on the horizon, how the Crusaders won was of equal importance.
After a sluggish first few minutes, Trinity used a 9-2 run to open up a 25-17 lead, built it to 11 points by halftime, then scored the first 9 points of the third quarter to turn the game into a rout.
"We've had a lot of close wins throughout the season so it was nice to get a blowout," guard Schadrac Casimir said. "I think today's game will give us a lot of confidence."
Casimir's play was representative of his team's. He was more assertive, taking shots on the perimeter that were within the Crusaders' offense, but that he had been passing up the past week. He finished with a game-high 32 points.
"I played more aggressively today," Casimir said. "I think I shot the ball with more confidence. We all used as motivation that we played a bad last game and came out with more intensity."
Brandon Wheeler added 19 points and 9 rebounds for the Crusaders (15-1, 13-1 FCIAC), who have won seven games in a row since their lone loss, to St. Joseph. With the Cadets defeating Bridgeport Central on Thursday, and Staples handing Westhill its first conference defeat, there is now a three-way tie for first place in the league between the Crusaders, Vikings and St. Joseph.
Tremain Fraiser added 14 points for Trinity.
"We played a little bit sloppy early and then came together and played good defense, especially in the third quarter," Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. "We were able to get out on the break. I saw some good signs out there tonight. Schadrac took shots and they were good shots. He's just a good player. Neno (Merritt) gave us an awful lot, and Brandon did a good job on the boards."
The loss left Warde (4-12, 4-10) in the position of needing to win its final four games to qualify for the state tournament.
"In the first half we gave up too many offensive rebounds," Mustangs coach Ryan Swaller said. "We knew we had to limit their possessions. We gave them a lot of second-chance points on the break after stopping them initially. Casimir is one great player. He can take the ball any time he wants and try and score. We knew he was going to get his. The other guys showed they are not just a one-man show."
Mark Byrne finished with 20 points to lead Warde. Nick Cotto added 9.
The Crusaders on Monday begin a 3-game road trip at Wilton, which handed St. Joseph its lone loss. Next up is a game against Westhill -- which has beaten them each of the last two seasons -- for the city, followed by defending champion Bassick.
It is debatable this season whether there is anything to be gained in the jockeying to try and avoid -- or set up -- a meeting against a specific opponent. There is no debating, however, the importance of setting the right tone for the postseason.
"We have to play hard every time we step on the floor," Walsh said. "Everyone wants to beat Trinity Catholic. We play two very good teams next week. It's a heck of a challenge and we will see if we're up to it."
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TRINITY CATHOLIC 84, WARDE 57
FAIRFIELD WARDE (4-12, 4-10 FCIAC)
Hunter Smaldone 2 0-0 4; Mike Pehota 1 2-4 4; Mark Byrne 7 3-3 20; TJ Tracy 2 0-0 4; Tommy Lucker 0 0-0 0; Max Garrett 3 1-4 8; Josh Dow 0 0-0 0; Nick Cotto 2 4-4 9; Giacomo Brancato 1 3-4 5; Brian Kerrigan 0 0-0 0; Dan Cetta 1 0-0 2; Kavon Polk 0 0-0 0; T.J. Gallagher 0 0-0 0; Dylan Reilly 0 1-2 1. TOTALS: 19 14-21 57.
TRINITY CATHOLIC (15-1, 13-1 FCIAC)
Schadrac Casimir 14 0-0 32; Tremain Fraiser 7 0-0 14; Greg Hajjar 1 0-0 2; Brandon Wheeler 8 2-3 19; Neno Merritt 1 0-0 2; Justice Page 0 0-0 0; Tyrell St. John 1 1-2 3; Pat Keneally 0 0-0 0; Danny O'Leary 3 0-0 6; Mike Szemenyei 0 0-0 0; Lucas Salem 0 0-0 0; Tyler Williams 3 0-0 6. TOTALS: 38 3-5 84.
WARDE 15 14 9 19--57
TRINITY CATHOLIC 21 19 21 23--84
3-point shots: FW--Byrne 3, Garrett, Cotto; TC--Casimir 4, Wheeler.