STAMFORD—It was a final celebration on hallowed ground.
The Trinity Catholic boys basketball program made what should be the last official game appearance on historic Walsh Court memorable Monday night as the Crusaders conquered Notre Dame-Fairfield, 83-49 in the opening round of the 2020 Division I tournament.
A packed gym, filled with Trinity Catholic students and alumni, saw the No. 10 seed Crusaders (18-6 overall) dispatch a young and overmatched No. 23 seed ND-Fairfield with little drama.
The triumph means that Trinity Catholic will travel to battle No. 7 seed Hillhouse (18-2 overall) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Academics’ Floyd Little Athletic Center. Hillhouse had a first-round bye.
Trinity Catholic, in the hunt for an eighth boys basketball state championship before the school closes at the end of the academic year, led 18-10 after one period and 36-25 at halftime. The Crusaders opened the second half with a 26-2 surge to lead 65-31 after three quarters.
ND-Fairfield, which ends its season at 4-17 overall, did the best it could with its nine healthy players Monday. Among the four Lancers out injured was 6-foot-5 senior Max Mitchell.
Senior Hasim Boraj paced the Lancers with 15 points, 11 in the second half.
Trinity Catholic coach Brian Kriftcher made sure all 12 Crusaders saw action in this final home game. Starting senior point guard Malcolm Newman played just the opening three minutes before taking a maintenance night in anticipation of the bigger contests ahead for TC.
As expected, Trinity Catholic’s tall frontline commanded center stage.
Junior forward Akim Joseph collected a game-high 22 points including 16 in the first half. Senior forward Rahsen Fisher finished with 18 points, 12 in the second half. Junior 6-foot-8 center Rassoul Abakan added six points and eight blocks on the evening.
Guard Andrew Saint-Louis contributed 13 points including a trio of 3-pointers for the Crusaders, who regrouped nicely after suffering a disappointing 63-58 loss to Ridgefield in the FCIAC Championship final last Thursday.
“We executed well in the second half. And I’m happy that every player scored for us,” said Trinity Catholic coach Brian Kriftcher. “It’s a shame the school is closing at the end of the academic year. But we made sure our home court went out in style.”
If the Crusaders survive Wednesday’s matchup at No. 7 seed Hillhouse, they would be playing at neutral sites in the race to the Division final at Mohegan Sun Arena. The most likely opponents in Trinity Catholic’s path could be No. 2 seed NFA, No. 3 East Catholic and No. 6 seed Ridgefield.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Trinity Catholic’s Akim Joseph: The junior forward had 16 of his game-high 22 points in the first half to pace the Crusaders’ attack.
“The kids showed so much heart and maximum effort,” said ND-Fairfield coach Shawn Stanco. “For some of our young guys, it was their first varsity start. For most, it was their first-ever state tournament contest. This experience will mean so much to them in the future.”