FALLS VILLAGE — In a Class S quarterfinal matchup in which No. 7 seed Trinity Catholic’s offense, led by 6-foot-1 Iyanna Lops, was expected to have an edge over No. 2 Housatonic, it was the Crusaders’ defense, led by Kyah Nowlin and Caitlyn Scott, that set the tone for a 52-34 Trinity win over the Mountaineers.
“Defense has been our thing all year,” said Crusaders coach Mike Walsh, Trinity Catholic’s legendary boys coach, drafted from his Florida retirement after the girls team lost its coach midseason.
“Our practice T-shirts say ‘Defense wins’,” Walsh said.
The victory sends the Crusaders on to Friday’s semifinals, where they will face No. 3 St. Paul of the NVL at a site and time to be announced.
The Mountaineers (24-2) might have worn a similar T-shirt as their own defense carried them through an undefeated Berkshire League season.
So it was no surprise when Tuesday’s first basket at Housatonic High School came two whole minutes into the game, on a pass from Lops to Nowlin under the Trinity basket.
Instead, the surprise came for Housatonic’s offense, victims of seven first-quarter Crusader steals on Trinity’s way to 13 for the half.
“It seemed like the girls were scared,” said Housy coach Steve Dodge. “Despite our scouting and videos, Trinity Catholic (20-5) was quicker than we thought.”
Asked whether they’d rather score points or make steals, Nowlin and Crusader Scott, Trinity’s point guard, grinned before agreeing steals were better.
“Especially when we can turn them into fast breaks,” Nowlin said.
“I’d rather score points,” said Lops, headed for Division I Cal State-Bakersfield next fall on a full scholarship.
Housatonic point guard Sierra O’Niel was the first Mountaineer to shake off the nerves, on a drive to the hoop two-and-a-half minutes from the end of a first quarter that ended 13-2, Crusaders.
Nowlin (17 points) had her way with two fast breaks to end the quarter as Lops (21 points), too, got her scoring wish on her sixth point from five-feet out.
But O’Niel (14 points), started the second quarter on a quest to end Mountaineer fears with a 5-1 personal run on the game’s first 3 and another drive into the paint.
It partially worked, as Caroline Hurlburt, Ella Segalla and Christina Winburn found their scoring touch, but that’s when the pundits were right: Trinity Catholic had the edge on offense as well as defense.
Scott opened up for a pair of 3s leading Trinity to a 14-11 margin in the second quarter, with the second one at the buzzer for a 27-13 halftime lead.
Sydney Segalla, Housatonic’s 5-foot-11 freshman center, had some success on the attack in the third, along with some Mountaineer steals, but Trinity’s scoring trio — Lops, Nowlin and Scott — kept pushing toward a 39-21 lead at the end of three quarters.
By then, the game was out of reach for the Mountaineers.
“Their defense got us and we threw the ball away,” Dodge said. “This was a higher caliber team than we’ve played before. I told the girls, ‘There’s no shame in it; leave the Berkshire League Championship in your hearts.”