Playing For a Cure embraced by community

Chris Lindwall has been the architect for the Playing For A Cure event that has raised more than $500,000 to help fight cancer.

Chris Lindwall has been the architect for the Playing For A Cure event that has raised more than $500,000 to help fight cancer.

David G Whitham / For Hearst Connecticut Media

Last Friday was the final time that Trumbull and St. Joseph basketball teams would take the court at Fairfield University’s Alumni Hall. A 3,500-seat Convocation Center will be built on the spot and is projected to open in 2021.

The town teams made the most of its sixth consecutive season Playing For A Cure, in conjunction with IAABBO Board 9 of Basketball Officials and the Pink Whistle Initiative, to benefit the American Cancer Society.

Trumbull’s girls’ team defeated St. Joseph, 61-36, in the opener. The Eagles’ boys’ team edged St. Joe’s, 85-81, in the nightcap. The twin bill was played before 2,000-plus fans in attendance to help boost the more than $50,000 raised for the American Cancer Society in the first five meetings.

“What an incredible night for a great cause,” event organizer and St. Joe’s girls’ basketball coach Chris Lindwall communicated. “Thank you to all of the students and fans of both schools for coming out to support these great teams and the fight against cancer. I had a dream seven years ago of creating this atmosphere for our schools. Now it is our last time playing this game at Alumni Hall, and to see more than 2,000 people there was incredible.

“Thank you to all of our sponsors who make this all happen, especially our Title Sponsor Napoli Nissan and Kia of Milford. “I did not get the result I wanted for my team, but was extremely proud of my daughter Julia, who scored 11 points including 3-for-4 from 3-point land and had 7 rebounds for Trumbull. And an amazing boys game went right down to the wire.

“Thank you again to the St Joseph and Trumbull High communities. It should be a great high school season finish for all four teams. Good luck to everyone.”

Trumbull girls improved to 10-2 overall and 10-2 in the FCIAC. The Lady Cadets are 12-5, 8-5 FCIAC. Trumbull’s boys’ team moved its mark to 9-5, 6-4 FCIAC. The Cadets dipped to 10-3, 9-2 FCIAC.

“On the girls’ side, we receive a tremendous amount of support from the community and the youth programs in town,” Trumbull girls’ head coach Steve Tobitsch said. “But is special when we get to bring everybody together (in one gym).

“The young girls we had out here, with only the one senior (Maeve Hampford), hadn’t been in this environment before. I think it showed a bit in the first half, then we got our groove going. The games are for a great cause. Cancer has affected all of us and our families.

“Chris Lindwall does a wonderful job spearheading this event. Kudos to him and for the effort everyone put in to make this night special for the two teams.”

Trumbull 61, St. Joseph 36

Cassi Barbato scored 17 points to lead Trumbull. Game to game, she is the top scorer for the Eagles. It wasn’t her point total on Friday — it was when the junior guard provided them— that provided separation in this matchup between FCIAC and town rivals. She opened the game with two baskets, then scored the first 5 points of the third quarter.

“It’s just great,” Barbato said of Playing For A Cure. “Every year we come out and both teams have a lot of energy. (Being) same town rivals brings just that more energy. We both want to win.”

The Eagles extended a 23-17 halftime advantage to 28-17 in the first 27 seconds after intermission.

Barbato and Emma Gentry doubled the ball, with Gentry taking control and passing forward to Barbato for a layup. On the next play, it was Maeve Hampford getting the steal by jumping a pass just past midcourt and feeding Barbato for a three-point play.

“It’s really exciting,” Hampford said. “It’s only one game a year and we are not really used to it (the setting). The energy is the same and it is always fun to play here.”

Tobitsch said about the third quarter: “We had to be more aggressive. I thought we were back on our heels in that second quarter. We tried to push the tempo a bit in the third quarter. When the tempo gets going, we are a good team.

“I’m very impressed with our senior captain Maeve Hampford. This is a kid that didn’t play a tremendous amount as a junior. She stepped up this year, not only as a starter, but the leadership she provides as a senior is absolutely unbelievable.”

Trumbull outscored St. Joe’s 19-10 the rest of the period to take a healthy 47-27 lead into the final frame.

The Eagles broke on top with Barbato scoring the game’s first two buckets, on assists from Emi Roberto. Hampford had 4 points and Julia Lindwall made 3-pointer for a 15-6 lead.

Trumbull’s help-side defense collapsed on Kirsten Rodriguez in the middle, and trapped in the corner, to make things difficult for the Cadets.

It was 17-8 when St. Joseph went on a 7-2 run midway through the stanza to recover from a 17-8 deficit. Erika Stephens had 5 points during the stretch and Rodriguez (8 points) tallied inside.

Grace Lesko and Roberto swished home consecutive threes to regain momentum.

St. Joe’s stayed at it and scored the last two baskets of the first half — on buckets by Rahmia Johnston and Elizabeth Adzima — to make it a 6-point game at the break.

Julia Lindwall (11 points) made a pair of 3-pointers, and Roberto (13 points) knocked down another, when Trumbull scored on 6 of 7 possessions to go in front 43-26 with 2:34 to play in the third.

“I thought Julia Lindwall did a fantastic job in that third quarter,” Tobitsch said. “I know it is cliché, but she really stretched the floor for us. She brought the big girls away from the hoop. She is a terrific jump shooter and she made some great jump shots for us. That helped open the driving lanes for some of our other girls to get to the basket.”

Kirsten Rodriguez (8 points), Erika Stephens (7 points), Rahmia Johnston (6 points) and Elizabeth Adzima (6 points) led St. Joseph.


The Title Sponsor for the event was Napoli Nissan and Kia of Milford. Game Sponsors included Trefz Family Restaurants, BTX Global Air, Bridgeport Insulated Wire Company, Connecticut Orthopaedics, Dennis Lindwall Foundation, Elite Electric, Shannon Landscaping, Connecticut Hoopsters AAU Basketball and Vazzy's Restaurants Twitter: @blox354