UNCASVILLE >> Westbrook had been a second-half team all season long. The Knights had one last chance to prove that theory true.
Trailing by 10 entering the fourth quarter, Westbrook made a run to hang in with one of the state’s most impressive programs over the past two decades. The deficit was only one with over 2 minutes left to decide Saturday’s Class S state championship.
In the end, Trinity Catholic had too much for the Knights. Led by Dutriel Contavio’s double-double, the sixth-seeded Crusaders defeated the top seeded Knights 61-52 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
“We were playing against guys who were physically more mature than us. We just came up a little short,” Westbrook coach Jeff Beeman said. “You saw how we traveled. The whole town, it was a Hoosiers moment, horns blowing. It’s special. And they will be supportive. We are all disappointed.”
It was the seventh state championship for the Crusaders (20-6) and for its longtime head coach Mike Walsh, who turns 70 on Monday.
“We have hard-working kids. We play play six guys who came out and play hard the whole game. I’m really proud of them,” Walsh said.
Trinity Catholic also becomes the second team to win state title in all four different classifications, joining fellow FCIAC mate St. Joseph.
Contavio, a native of Haiti, finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Two of those blocks came in the first quarter and he altered several others, impacting Westbrook’s ability to get to the basket.
”He really alters the game for us,” Walsh said. “From where he came 18 months ago, he was in Haiti and didn’t play basketball, and now he’s a pretty good basketball player. People will start realizing that.”
Westbrook (25-3) led 25-24 close to the midway point of the second quarter before Trinity closed out the half on a 12-5 run. Dimitry Moise, who led Trinity with 20 points, hit two deep threes during that run.
Then Cameron Blake hit a three to start the second half and open up a 10-point edge (39-29).
“In the first half (Moise) had half the points,” Beeman said. “It was like, what do we give them, the perimeter shot or man up inside?”
Trinity was able to get out on the 3-point line and guard the Knights. Westbrook got its 25 wins in large part due to hoisting — and making — 3-point shots. The team shot 41 percent from the three-point stripe in its semifinal win over Aerospace.
Trinity held Westbrook without a 3-point basket in both the second and third quarters. The Knights shot 7 of 27 from deep.
“That’s the difference between LL and S. We didn’t see that kind of man defense,” Beeman said. “Even their post guys come out and defend. It makes a jump shot so hard when they are contested.”
Westbrook trailed by 10 through three quarters before making one final run. The Knights did cut it to one, 51-50, on two free throws by Bell with 2:24 left. The Knights couldn’t convert on a 3-on-1 fast break opportunity to take the lead.
The Knights could only score two points from there.
“Words can’t describe how much this meant,” Muckle said. “We finished 25-3, won the Shoreline (tournament), won the regular season. We came up short. They are a good basketball team. They were better than us. It’s been a great season, something I will remember forever.”
Said Walsh: “Jeff is a class act. I remember we played him one time (when beeman coached at Hand). He’s a good coach and a good guy and I thought he did a heckuva job. We were fortunate.”
As for Walsh, he is contemplating retirement. He will mull it over carefully before deciding to walk away.
“I will think about it for awhile. I love it. I have decisions to make, we will see what happens,” Walsh said.