Alexa Pfohl is Miss Clutch in FCIAC semifinal
The Trumbull High girls basketball team had been schooled by Stamford High, 53-38, when the unbeaten teams met in Stamford on Jan. 15.
At the next day’s practice, Eagles’ coach Steve Tobitsch broke down the do’s and don’t that had brought about that negative result.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, when second-seeded Trumbull met sixth-seeded Stamford in the FCIAC semifinals at Fairfield Ludlowe High.
“Every loss we learn from,” Tobitsch said after his team carved out a 42-39 victory. “I know people laugh at that (because the Eagles have lost only twice), but we’re a stronger team than when we first met.
“We weren’t read for their physicality, and they scored something like 21 points on us in that first quarter. Tonight, we responded.”
Trumbull (19-2) will play Danbury High (18-3), the defending champions, for the title at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Ludlowe.
The third-seeded Hatters upended top-seeded Wilton High, 40-36, in its semifinal. Trumbull defeated Danbury, 42-36 on Feb. 13.
Alexa Pfohl scored 21 points, including an imperative 4-5 performance from the foul line. The senior point guard, also had to navigate her way through Stamford pressure in the closing minutes.
“It is difficult bringing the ball up court, because Stamford is big and quick,” Pfohl said. “It what we do in practice every day, simulate that pressure. The key is to stay calm in every situation.
Calm is coming up with a three-point play in traffic like Pfohl did after Stamford had scored consecutive baskets in transition to close within 35-32 midway through the final period.
Calm is stepping to the free throw line, after your team had made only 1-of-7 in the game, and sinking a pair of shots like Pfohl did with 51 seconds remaining.
“We got the ball in the hands of our senior point guard and Alexa did a great job,” Tobitsch said. “We have two seniors, Erin Moore is the other, and both played as we expect our seniors to play in big games.”
Moore scored six points in the opening frame when Trumbull staked out a 14-8 lead, despite six markers from Stamford’s oustanding center Kelsey Santagata.
“Props to her,” Moore said of her 6-0 counterpart. “We’ve battled since she was a freshman and I was a sophomore. It helped that I had a good team standing with me.”
Stamford (16-5), which had knocked off third-seeded Westhill-Stamford (17-4) in overtime in the quarterfinals, pulled even at 14 before Trumbull received what was to become a continual lift off its bench.
Dani McGillicuddy entered the game, and the sophomore swished home a left-handed 3-pointer from the right corner for the Eagles’ first bucket of the second stanza.
That basket, off an assist from Lauren Hyde, came after a 5:09 scoring drought to start the period.
Hyde, who played wonderful defense on Danbury’s ballhandlers, then came up with a steal and Moore rebounded home a missed shot to run Stamford into a timeout down 19-14.
Santagata, who finished with 21 points, had a putback, but Pfohl came down quickly and scored on a drive over the junior to give Trumbull a 21-16 lead at the half.
“Our team play tonight was absolutely amazing,” Pfohl said. “Lauren (Hyde) was all over the court taking away driving lanes and hustling on every play.
“It wasn’t just her, and that’s what was important. Everyone on the team did the little things we needed.”
Katie O’Leary, Rachel Carron, Kalise Eldrige and McGillicuddy made for a steady stream of help off the bench.
Santagata scored six straight points for the Black Knights to open the third quarter, but Moore passed to Joyce Wooten off dribble penetration for a basket.
Stamford went in front 25-23 on Brianna Gordon’s runner, and the Knights had scored on five straight possessions.
Pfohl then took a pass from Amanda Pfohl and buried a 3-pointer and before she scored on a left-hander between two defenders.
Trumbull’s defense shut down Stamford on its last six possessions of the period, but the Eagles missed four straight free throws during this stretch.
O’Leary’s hustle rebound and assist resulted in an Alexa Pfohl 3-pointer from above the foul line, and Trumbull took a 31-27 lead into the final frame.
Moore assisted on consecutive baskets by O’Leary to open the fourth quarter for a seven-point lead.
Santagata’s reverse layup and Ansia Fortt’s run-out hoop made it 35-32, and that’s when Alexa Pfohl took over.
“I’m proud of the team,” Tobitsch said. “Our individuals got better, our rotation got better. You can’t always see a team grow, but this one has.”
Trumbull defeated seventh-seeded Trinity Catholic of Stamford, 55-44, in the FCIAC quarterfinals on Saturday.
Against Trinity (14-7), the Eagles fell behind 15-7 but responded immediately to dominate the second period by a 16-1 margin and took a 23-16 lead into the half.
Trumbull won the third quarter, 16-11.
Amanda Pfohl scored 13 points, Alexa Pfohl 11, Moore and Wooten nine points each, and Carron five.
Moore had 12 rebounds and Amanda Pfohl six rebounds.