Defense propels Trumbull into FCIAC girls basketball semis

Julia Lindwall, Grace Lesko, Amanda Ruchalski and Cassi Barbato are Trumbull team captains.

Julia Lindwall, Grace Lesko, Amanda Ruchalski and Cassi Barbato are Trumbull team captains.

Trumbull Athletics / Contributed photo

Third-seeded Trumbull defeated sixth-seeded Stamford 55-27 in its FCIAC girls’ basketball quarterfinal game and coach Steve Tobitsch credited his players for the way they approached the game.

“The girls understood the importance of defense, the scouting report, and played incredible,” said Tobitsch, whose 12-2 Eagles met No. 7 seed Danbury (9-4) in the semifinals. “The execution on the floor showed the maturity of this team. As a coach you hope to improve throughout the course of a season, from a game-planning, skill and focus standpoint. We jumped out to a big lead (15-0 after one period) and those numbers speak for themselves on how focused the girls were for the first eight minutes of the game.”

Cassi Barbato scored 14 points and Emma Gentry had 13 against Stamford (9-5). Emi Roberto and Sarah Stolze had eight points each.

“If you look at the box score, you’ll see we had multiple players around the same point totals,” Tobitsch said. “Three of those girls are juniors and are having a significant impact on this team, not only this year but moving forward.”

Barbato scored the 1,000th point of her career when Trumbull defeated Westhill 50-33 in the round of 16. Barbato finished with 14 points, with a pair of 3-pointers.

Tobitsch said: “This has been a very enjoyable season. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids to coach in difficult circumstances. I never thought I would ever coach wearing a mask or see high school kids playing while wearing a mask.”

Barbato, Amanda Ruchalski, Julia Lindwall and Grace Lesko are team captains.

“Cassi Barbato is only my second 1,000-point scorer, Amanda Tucci was the other,” Tobitsch said. “Her biggest improvement has been her patience and letting the game come to her. Like we see with many other team’s best players, she draws a lot of team’s attention. She understands that and has done a great job getting other players involved. Her teammates benefit from the coverage that she draws.

“Amanda Ruchalski is one of our point guards. Feisty, she puts pressure on the ball and helps get us in the flow of our offense,” Tobitsch said. “Amanda steps in at the point when we want to move Cassi or Emi Roberto to the 2 (shooting guard) or 3 (small forward).

“Julia Lindwall one of our shooters. She can come in and knock down a 3 at any point and time. I’m most impressed this year by her communication on the defensive side of the ball.

“Grace Lesko draws the toughest assignment on the other team every single night. She’s had an impact on every game we played. Megan Garrity is a sophomore who has followed Grace’s lead. She played big minutes against Stamford.

“Sarah Stolze is a junior and key on the boards for us. Against Stamford, she was relentless and a big reason we were able to get those second shot opportunities.

“Emi Roberto is a great offensive player and her defensive ball pressure has been terrific. Her shooting stretches the defense.

“Emma Gentry is an incredible leader. Her ability to create shots for others is amazing and I’m very excited to have her back next year as her role continues to expand.”

Trumbull’s ability to mix and match its players on the floor is a staple.

“We talk to the girls about the importance of having a balanced starting lineup. A lot of girls have earned the opportunity to start. We as coaches have to find the right mix of rotating players on to the court. Our players have bought into that and you couldn’t do that without great senior leadership. One player may start one game and come off the bench in two others. I think our seniors have helped get the team in synch from both a mental and physical standpoint as the season unfolded.

“This is an extraordinary group of young ladies for what they’ve done the last two months, playing basketball with a mask on. To watch what they have done over the course of these last two months is remarkable. I’d love nothing more than to have two more games with these girls before they all move on.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354