STAMFORD, Conn. – Trinity Catholic High School girls basketball coach Tom Kriz believes the race for the league championship is wide open. And he feels his Crusaders have as good as shot as anyone to take the title.
The Crusaders first have a little work to do to get into the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference tournament. Trinity (12-5 overall, 11-4 in the league) is seventh in the league standings for one of the eight playoff berths. The Crusaders have three games left, beginning with a big game Thursday at Fairfield Warde.
But the Crusaders seem to be playing their best as the season winds down. They have won four straight and five of their last seven. They picked up big wins in the last week over Ridgefield and Fairfield Ludlowe, two other teams also vying to reach the playoffs. Those victories could be critical if it comes down to head-to-head tiebreakers.
“I like our chances,’’ Kriz said. “If we beat the first or second seed, I don’t know that I’d call it an upset. I like the way we play. If we keep ourselves together and our focus, we’ll be OK.”
What makes the Crusaders dangerous is their versatility. Ali Palma, who has committed to play at Division II Franklin Pierce, is the leading scorer. She scored 23 points in the 55-51 win over Ridgefield, and had 17 in the win over Fairfield Ludlowe on Tuesday.
As the season has progressed, however, more players have emerged. Kellie Hurd scored 14 against Ridgefield, including a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to put the Crusaders ahead for good. Anne Margaret Eilersten, a sophomore, has reached double figures in five straight games. Kate Spielman has been a powerful inside presence.
After losing 1,000-point scorer Mackenzie Griffin to graduation, the Crusaders have bounced back. They finished 14-9 last season, and might be even better this year.
“This is kind of where I thought we’d be,’’ Kriz said. “At the beginning of the season, everyone does their Ws and Ls. I think we’re where I probably thought we could be.”
The Crusaders could also make noise in the Class M tournament. Kriz guided the Crusaders to state titles in 2002, 2003 and 2006. They are currently seeded 11th, but their tough league schedule always benefits them at playoff time. Games next week against Wilton and Westhill, who have four losses between them, could be especially revealing.
“I’d love to win all of our remaining games, but we can only go one game at a time,’’ Kriz said. “The only one I’m concerned with is the next one on the schedule. I thought we played well against Ridgefield, and it gave them a lot of confidence. It’s a big boost for them and it shows what they’re capable of.”