Timmond Williams of Trumbull and Denali Burton of Danbury stood near the foul line talking as they warmed up for the FCIAC Junior All-Star game at Staples High Monday night.
Two weeks prior the pair had been going at it in the FCIAC championship game won by Burton’s Hatters.
They very well may have been making plans to meet up again in next season’s finale.
Trumbull had no seniors on its roster and while Danbury loses players like Jordon Brown and Cam Snow, it brings back a lot of talent including the FCIAC finals MVP, Burton.
Trumbull and Danbury will not be alone in returning talented players as was evident at the Junior All-Star game.
“It is a great junior class. The games should be really good every night next year,” Williams said. “I feel like our league is the best league in the state and that will help us when we go against other teams from other conferences. Our goal next year is to go to Mohegan Sun. That’s always the goal.”
Watching the junior game and taking a quick look at teams’ rosters, it is a safe bet the FCIAC squads will reclaim a perch among the best teams in the state next season.
This season, they did not.
For the first time since 2006, a FCIAC boys basketball team failed to reach a state semifinal.
Danbury seemingly had the best shot all season and were primed to make the semis, but eventual Division I champions Notre Dame-Fairfield rallied from down 21 in the fourth quarter, eliminating the Hatters.
In Division II, Stamford and Wilton reached the quarterfinals but stopped there.
So, as the semifinals came around, all the FCIAC teams were sitting at home.
— Scott Ericson (@EricsonSports) March 19, 2018
“Losing like we did was hard but it’s going to motivate us,” Burton said. “We had then up by 21 and they won but next year we are going to be going for the state championship. We are losing some good players but also bringing back a lot. The FCIAC is going to be hard next year. Just looking at the guys on this court, you can see it.”
It was not totally unexpected for the FCIAC to not have a favorite to make a state championship game this season.
The last few years saw great tournament runs by Bridgeport Central, Westhill and Danbury in Class LL and Trinity Catholic last season in Class S, but finding a team to do it again was not easy in the preseason.
With Trinity being moved up to play in the uber-talented Division I, it and Danbury seemed the only hope for advancement.
Danbury beat Trinity in the second round, leaving it as the lone FCIAC team in the quarterfinals of the top division.
The naysayers who said the league was down the past few seasons, despite teams making deep runs in state tournaments, may have finally had a point this season though the bar has been set high.
Most leagues in the state would be thrilled to get a team in the state semifinals just one year, never mind 11 straight.
The games in the league were competitive and the FCIAC tournament was entertaining but the league lacked a team that made the rest of the state take notice.
It was not a banner season but if the players in the junior all-state game have their way it will only be a one-season anomaly.
Both Trumbull and Danbury should begin the season ranked in the state top 10 and others from the league may join them as the season goes on.
Along with Burton and Williams, the all-star teams featured All-FCIAC second teamers Saikwon Williams of McMahon, Chris Brown of Trumbull and James St. Pierre of Ridgefield.
Ridgefield won the FCIAC tournament two seasons ago and finished the regular season as the No. 1 team this year before being upset by Norwalk in the FCIAC quarterfinals and getting knocked off by Hamden in the Division I tournament.
— Scott Ericson (@EricsonSports) March 20, 2018
For the second straight season, the Tigers will take graduation losses, including saying goodbye to 6-foot-6-inch Brenden McNamara.
Still, Ridgefield will again be in the mix of contenders as it annually reloads rather than rebuilds.
St. Pierre said he is glad to be a part of what could be a special group of players in the FCIAC next year.
“It’s a pretty talented class. There are a bunch of kids here right now who are pretty good,” St. Pierre said. “We have a lot of guys who didn’t play a lot because we had Brenden (McNamara) and some other seniors but I think we will be pretty good again. It seems like we lose a lot but we work really hard in the offseason to make sure we replace people who left.”
The teams were only allowed to send one player to the all-star game, Trumbull was allowed two since it had nobody in the senior game, but many of the teams left off players who could be first-team All-FCIAC caliber next season.
Along with Danbury and Trumbull — Norwalk, Stamford, Ridgefield, Wilton and Trinity all should bring back more than one all-league worthy player.
That is not even taking in to consideration young teams like Staples, Westhill, New Canaan and Ludlowe who should all be much improved after fielding teams mainly comprised of underclassmen this season.
The FCIAC watched its neighbors the SWC win titles in three different divisions this season, this time next year it could very well be the FCIAC in the same spot.