STAMFORD — With a frontline that measured 6-foot-8 (Rassoul Abakan), 6-4 (Akim Joseph) and 6-5 (Rahsen Fisher) across, the Trinity Catholic boys basketball team has presented a formidable challenge to FCIAC opponents this season.
In what should prove to be a wonderful New Year’s present, the Crusaders added another important piece to their roster puzzle Friday night.
Senior guard Malcolm Newman became eligible and city-rival Westhill received the first live action look at his talents before a capacity crowd at the J. Walter Kennedy Athletic Center.
Newman collected a game-high 25 points as Trinity Catholic rolled to a 71-51 triumph over Westhill.
“Malcolm is a difference maker. People focus on his basketball talent. I focus on his character,” Trinity Catholic coach Brian Kriftcher said. “Malcolm works hard. He has great basketball IQ. He’s a leader. He’s an alpha male on the court. Everybody seems a little more comfortable on our side now that Malcolm is playing.”
Newman, who had been practicing with Trinity Catholic while sitting out the requisite 10 games as a transfer student, was an AAU basketball teammate of a number of Trinity Catholic starters.
The 6-foot-2 Newman was a factor at both ends of the court. His aggressive defense led to a number of Crusader steals and fast break baskets.
The ball also moved quicker in the halfcourt sets with Newman orchestrating as point guard.
Trinity Catholic (6-5, 5-2 FCIAC) settled the issue in the first half. A 10 minute span covering late first period and the opening seven minutes of the second quarter, the Crusaders fashioned a 31-4 surge to build a 42-13 edge.
“Newman was impressive for Trinity,” said Westhill’s veteran coach Howard White. “He drove to the basket well. He shot from the perimeter well. And he uses his body effectively.”
The newest Crusader scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half.
“I like playing for this Trinity Catholic team a lot. It’s a good fit for me,” Newman said. “It was very stressful waiting for the 10 games to get over with. Our frontline guys make the game easier for me the way they block shots, rebound and get the outlet passes to me.”
The Crusader frontline had eight blocks and countless intimidations in the paint. Westhill sophomore Ryder Kurtz put up a good battle when he wasn’t saddled on the bench in foul trouble.
The most effective player for Westhill was junior guard Ben Pennella, who scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the first half.
For Trinity Catholic, Fisher collected 12 points, all in the first half while Andrew Saint-Louis added 10.
With the addition of Newman and the lessons gained from last Saturday’s 75-47 non-league road loss to New York powerhouse Long Island Lutheran, Trinity Catholic is poised for the FCIAC stretch drive.
The Crusaders have won their last three league contests and have nine FCIAC contests left in the regular season.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Trinity Catholic guard Malcolm Newman: The senior collected 25 points in his Crusader and FCIAC debut.
“I saw lots of good signs tonight. Our regular season mantra is ‘Be Good then Be Better then Be Best’ Malcolm Newman will help our defensive intensity as much as he’ll affect our offense. I feel our group is headed in the right direction.” — Trinity Catholic coach Brian Kriftcher