Trumbull knocks off two-time defending champion Waterford
TRUMBULL — The scholastic basketball season is under way and it is time to reshuffle the deck. But that doesn’t mean that Waterford and Trumbull didn’t have a few cards left up their sleeves when they met Friday night.
Trumbull, which advanced to the Division I semifinals a year ago out of the FCIAC, upended back-to-back state champion Waterford from the Eastern Connecticut Conference 67-57.
Coach Buddy Bray brought back guards Quentar Taylor and Mileeq Green from the Eagles’ 19-4 fifth-seeded team that lost to No. 1 seed and eventual champion East Catholic (24-0).
Ryan O’Connell and Payton Sutman were slated to return for coach Bill Bassett from a 23-1 squad that won states out of the top seed. But the 6-foor-4 Sutman is out with a knee injury. That heightened O’Connell’s role, and the 6-foot-6 senior was ready to pick up the slack.
Knocking down all three of his long-range shots in the first quarter, O’Connell’s 9 points helped the Lancers to a 14-12 lead. In the second frame, he showed off his entire game and his 8 points led Waterford to a 31-25 halftime advantage.
O’Connell made 8 free throws in the third quarter in the third frame that ended at 44-all after Trumbull made a trio of 3-pointers.
That’s when Trumbull’s Green and Taylor went to work.
Consecutive steals from Green resulted in Taylor’s breakaway basket and a Johnny McCain trey two minutes in. Waterford got no closer than three the rest of the way.
Andrew Cutter’s rebounding (8 to go with 6 blocks) limited the Lancers to one crack at the basket down the stretch. Taylor took ownership of the ball and scored 8 of his 17 points in the final quarter.
“Playing Waterford is always a challenge,” said Taylor who added 7 assists. “They beat us last year (in a game that) came down to the wire. They are a great team, a great program. We knew we had to get the job done. We played as a team from beginning to end.”
Bray said: “Waterford, back-to-back state champs they won the three (Division 3). I told the kids this is a very good program coming in here tonight.
“I think they got hit with the injury bug (Sutman). Their big kid (O’Connell) was fantastic in the first half. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of kids tonight. I thought Q (Taylor) was solid in the second half; our defense was solid in the second half. That team is going to win a lot of games. We knew what Q could do. Mileeq (is) battling a little bit of a shoulder injury and really showed a lot of heart. We’ll move on from here and keep working hard.”
Bassett said: “I felt that both teams lost a lot of seniors last year, a lot of leadership. We won the state championship, they went super deep and lost to an East Catholic team that was phenomenal. I think both teams were looking to see where the leadership is. How were the other players going to adapt?
“They had number 45 Taylor I think is his name, I had Ryan O’Connell. Those guys definitely were the two leaders on the floor. But how were the rest of the team going to adapt? Their role players did a really nice job today. Our role players did an all right job too. They did some more of the little things that we have to keep working on.”
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PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Trumbull’s Quentar Taylor had 17 points and 7 assists running the offense for Trumbull. Waterford’s Ryan O’Connell was brilliant in all areas and finished with 25 points.
“I felt that both teams lost a lot of seniors last year, a lot of leadership. We won the state championship, they went super deep and lost to an East Catholic team that was phenomenal. I think both teams were looking to see where the leadership is. How were the other players going to adapt?” — Waterford coach Bill Bassett
Trumbull 67, Waterford 57
At Trumbull High
Waterford 14 17 13 13 — 57
Trumbull 12 13 19 23 — 67
Liam Kane 2 4-4 9; Ryan Bakken 1 2-2 4; Stanley Maynard 3 5-6 13; Robert Zawacki 1 0-0 2; Ryan O'Connell 7 8-10 25; Samuel Menders 0 0-0 0; Owen Coderre 2 0-0 4. Totals 16 19-22 57
3 pointers: O'Connell 3, Maynard 2, Kane 1
Tyler Woolery 2 0-0 6; Mileeq Green 5 2-2 13; Lance Walsh 0 0-0 0; Connor Johnston 1 2-2 4; Johnny McCain 4 1-2 13; Sage Gatling 0 0-0 0; Sebastian Mettellus 1 0-0 3; Andrew Cutter 4 1-1 9; Jake Gruttadauria 1 0-1 2; Quentar Taylor 5 6-10 17. Totals 23 12-18 67
3 Pointers: McCain 4, Woolery 2, Green 1, Mettellus 1, Taylor 1