NEWTOWN — On the back of Trinity Catholic’s “Support Lady Crusaders Basketball” T-shirts is the following sentiment.
“May ALL Your Dreams Come True!”
Well, the Trinity Catholic High School girls basketball team saw their prayers answered Friday night as they fashioned a 56-45 triumph over No. 3 seed St. Paul Catholic-Bristol in the Class S state semifinals before a raucous full house at Newtown High gym.
The win means No. 7 seed Trinity Catholic (21-5 overall) will be spending next weekend playing for the Class S state title at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Crusaders will battle No. 1 seed Canton for the championship.
“I went to Mohegan Sun to watch the state final my sophomore year when the Trinity Catholic boys basketball team won. It was a great atmosphere and a great experience,” Trinity Catholic senior center Iyanna Lops said.
“To be going to Mohegan Sun to play on that basketball court for a state title is truly a dream come true. It’s another chance for all of us to do what we do on the basketball court.”
— Elliott Polakoff (@ElliottPolakoff) March 9, 2019
What Trinity Catholic did Friday night was take the fight to St. Paul Catholic early. Trailing 5-2, the Crusaders closed the period with a 14-0 surge for a 16-5 edge.
It’s not what NVL champion St. Paul Catholic was used to this season. Since losing to Ludlowe and Warde at a Christmas tournament, the Falcons had reeled off 19 consecutive victories.
“Usually our press works and we grab the early advantage,” St. Paul Catholic junior Janessa Gonzalez said. “But we didn’t start strong tonight. We spent time trying to get back into it from there.”
It was not what St. Paul Catholic coach Joe Mone wanted to see either.
“We were erratic in the first quarter. We never settled on offense,” Coach Mone said. “We took a lot of bad shots. We were rushing to shoot the ball rather than let the shot opportunities flow from our offensive sets. We may have gotten caught up in the emotion of the (state semifinal) game.”
Trinity Catholic showed why it has won 14 of its last 17 contests since falling to No. 1 in the state Norwalk back on January 10.
The Crusaders’ defense was relentless. And 6-foot-1 center Lops (five blocks, 15 rebounds) and junior point guard Caitlyn Scott did their thing on offense.
Scott collected a game-high 23 points while Lops finished with 22 points.
“We were finally patient on offense. And our defense carried us the entire game,” Trinity Catholic coach Mike Walsh said. “The other key was breaking their press early. They had been hitting teams with that all season. And we were able to turn it around.”
While St. Paul Catholic had a number of players in foul trouble, Trinity Catholic was rolling to a 25-17 halftime edge and a 36-26 cushion after three quarters.
The Crusaders kept St. Paul Catholic at bay by making free throws. Trinity Catholic was 26 of 33 overall from the line. The Crusaders were 15 of 22 in the final four minutes as St. Paul Catholic committed 16 fouls in the second half.
Lops was 11 of 12 from the charity stripe while Scott was 11 of 16.
“We all came together on the court,” Scott said. “We have such trust for each other.”
For Trinity Catholic, which lost the FCIAC final 32-29 to Norwalk, there is one more step left on the journey.
Mohegan Sun. Here we come.
“This is amazing. We were 1-19 two years ago. We won eight games last year,” Scott said. “We never thought about going to Mohegan Sun. And now, we’re going. It’s so great.”
“We just play our best every night. And now, we can end our season with a bang,” Lops said. “Playing in the FCIAC got us ready for this challenge.”
As for St. Paul Catholic, which graduates five seniors, it was the FCIAC (Ludlowe, Warde, Trinity Catholic) that kept the Falcons from an unbeaten season (24-3).
“We got better as the season wore on,” Mone said. “I told the girls not to hang their heads. We were 24-3 and won a NVL title. It was a great season. We just played bad at the wrong time.”