“It was exciting for the kids, exciting for the basketball program on such a great night for a great cause,” Trumbull High boys basketball coach Buddy Bray said following his team’s 69-54 victory over St. Joseph in the second game of the Officials vs Cancer doubleheader before a reported crowd of 2,200 fans at Fairfield University’s Alumni Hall on Saturday, Jan 9.
“We made enough good plays to build up that lead. That’s a good program, Chris (Watts) is a good coach. Credit St Joes, they force you into that uptempo action. They get the ball to the rim. We knew they weren’t going away.”
Trumbull broke out to a 10-0 lead and used a strong defensive performance to turn back every St. Joseph effort to make it a barnburner.
Jack Moore scored 22 points to lead the way for the Eagles, who improved to 4-1 on the season. A senior tri-captain, Moore scored had five points and had an assist in the early run. He added nine points in the second period when Trumbull extended its lead from 17-10 after one period to 37-29 at the half.
“We wanted to block out, eliminate second shots,” Bray said of his team’s game plan. “We wanted to force them to shoot threes with a hand in their face. (On offense) We wanted to shoot the ball as a team. Not just a good shot for you but a good shot for us. It was a lot of fun being out there with all those fans. Now we have to take (good effort) with us. There is a long way to go.”
Trumbull will host Fairfield Ludlowe (4-3) Friday, Jan. 15, and visit New Canaan (2-5) on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
Camren Menefee finished with 12 points for coach Watt’s Cadets, now 1-3. Omar Telfer scored 11 points, Joe Lucy nine and Jack Moulder seven.
“We worked too hard on defense to go down and take quick shots,” Watts said after addressing his team in the locker room. ”There is no shot clock in the state of Connecticut. They were just so satisfied at getting to the rim and just putting it up there. It wasn’t just one guy but a lot of guys.
“We had shots that were there, sometimes there were guys that were penetrating that could have kicked the ball there. I was happy we were taking open shots. And I think we applied the right kind of pressure on them. We didn’t match up quick enough on our press, though, and let them up the sideline.”
Johnny McElroy was a workhorse for Trumbull. The junior swingman scored 16 points, eight of them coming in the third period to help stave off a comeback attempt by the Cadets. He added a bushel of rebounds.
J.J. Pfohl ran an effective half-court set for Trumbull, and unleashed the Eagles transition game when he had the numbers. A junior, Pfohl finished with 10 points.
Ben McCullough, Chris Lyons, Eddie Giovannini and Alex Recker provided Trumbull with a tough defensive grouping for the St. Joseph quick guards to beat at the rim.
St. Joseph’s Moulder knocked down a 3-pointer off an assist from Menefee with 5:03 left in the first half to make it a 21-20 game. Trumbull answered with McCullough scoring from the baseline, Moore hitting a brace of free throws, and McElroy tallying on a strong drive.
Menefee made a step back jumper and Lucy rattled in a 10-footer, but consecutive treys from Moore and Giovannini allowed the Eagles to distance themselves.
Menefee converted four straight free throws, before McEloy scored twice, one on a reverse layup, as Trumbull took a 37-29 lead into the break.
Lucy knocked in his second 3-pointer to make it 37-32 in the third quarter, before McElroy had a three-point play and scored on consecutive drives, the second with a hesitation move. St. Joseph called for time down 46-32 with 5:13 remaining in the third period.
Telfer had a great dish off to Lucy for a basket and then scored on a leaner in traffic to draw the Cadets within a free throw of getting within 10 points, but Moore scored on a baseline drive to give Trumbull a 53-40 lead with eight minutes remaining.
Curtis Eller scored the first three points of the final quarter before Giovannini took a pass from McElroy and rang the bell from the top of the key.
Moore scored the next three points in the game to put the Eagles comfortably in front.
Watts is looking ahead. “That’s the thing,” he said of the slow start to the season. “We’re not going to say we’ll get there….we’re get there. We’re going to stop the bleeding right now beginning with our next practice. I think if we play defense, the way we want to play defense, we’ll be alright.”
St. Joseph started the healing with a 52-42 road win over Fairfield Ludlowe on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Menefee scored 11 points. Moulder and Telfer had 10 points each, but it was the defense that was key in dropping Ludlowe to 4-3 on the season. The Cadets broke an 8-8 tie after one period with an 18-6 run in the second. After Ludlowe rallied within 40-34, St. Joseph won the final frame 12-8.
St. Joseph will travel to Wilton High (4-1) Friday, Jan. 15, and host Danbury High (5-0) on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Both games tip-off at 7 p.m.