St. Joseph stuns Trinity Catholic

“This is the craziest game I’ve ever been in and this shows the heart of this team,” St. Joseph High’s Jake Pelletier said after coach Chris Watts’ seventh-ranked Cadets posted a pair of comebacks that defied logic and knocked third-ranked Trinity Catholic of Stamford from the unbeaten ranks with an 87-85 victory in an overtime thriller at a rollicking Vito Montelli Gymnasium in Trumbull on Tuesday night.

“We work together. We’re not the most talented, but even when Quincy (McKnight) and Raekwon (Reid) fouled out, we knew with our team anything’s possible. Our hearts are off the charts. We never give up."

With Trinity Catholic holding an 85-80 lead with 43 seconds left in the extra session, Pelletier swished home a 3-pointer off a pass from Judenick Florian.

Florian then disrupted the Crusaders’ inbounds pass, and Pelletier was fouled coming up with the loose ball.

Pelletier (25 points) made both free throws to tie the game at 85 with 20 ticks on the clock.

Trinity Catholic (8-1) put the ball in the hand of their best player, Schadrac Casimir, but the senior guard who was money all night, missed a floater and Erick Langston came away with the rebound.

Langston dribbled to midcourt before giving the ball up to Florian, who found Jonny Dzurenda on the baseline.

Dzurenda (24 points) went baseline, where the 6-0 junior drew heavy contact while getting the ball to go through the net.

The decibel level was deafening, as Dzurenda stepped to the line after giving St. Joseph an improbable two-point lead with six seconds remaining.

He missed the freebie, but followed his shot and the ball went out to Trinity out of bounds with now only 4.5 seconds left.

Casimir dribbled up court and let go of a runner from just over halfcourt that went in and rolled out as the buzzer sounded.

“Casimir is one of the best point guards in the state of Connecticut and very hard to contain,” Watts said of the Crusader point guard, who scored 32 points and was a 12-of-15 from the foul line.

“It was a great team effort on both sides. Coach (Vito) Montelli and Coach (Mike) Walsh have been going at it like this for years. The kids know all about this rivalry.”

St. Joseph reaching overtime was a longshot, after Tremaine Fraiser (17 points) banked in a raindrop for a 70-65 Crusader lead with 41 seconds left in regulation.

Reid (11 points) found Dzurenda inside for a bucket at the 31-second mark, and then McKnight used his length to steal a pass and connected with Dzurenda underneath for another basket to make it a 70-69 game.

McKnight did it again, stealing the ball off a sideline trap with 11 seconds remaining.

Reid was fouled and the junior made the second of two to force overtime.

“Quincy is a a leader of this team,” Watts said of his junior, who had a triple double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. “He was enthused and did a good job hitting the gaps on offense. His defense was outstanding.”

McKnight, who fouled out with 2:18 left in overtime, said: “Coach Watts told us to keep our heads up. I never doubted my teammates, even down by five and only seconds left.”

Pelletier said: “Coach Watts drew up the play (for the late 3-pointer in regulation) and I looped around and got the pass. Trinity is a fantastic team and this was just two teams going at it.”

Langston scored six of his nine points in overtime, including matching baskets inside to keep Trinity’s lead at three.

“Erick is the backbone for us down there (in the paint),” Watts said. “I love the way he battles even though at six-two he is undersized.

“Judenick (who came in for extensive use when Reid fouled out with 54.9 seconds left in OT) plays in games the way he performs in practice. He makes the coaches feel comfortable.

“Steve Hashemi gives us quality minutes all the time, but to come in cold off the bench in the last minute of overtime and make two free throws to cut it from five points to three is special.”