Basketball: Trumbull topples South Windsor in Class LL opener

Trumbull High rallied from a pair 10-point first-half deficits to pin a 47-38 defeat on visiting South Windsor High in the first round of the Class LL boys basketball state tournament on Tuesday.

Chris Lyons led the sixth-seeded Eagles (19-4) with 16 points, while Jack Moore added 12.

“We weren’t guarding so well,” Trumbull head coach Buddy Bray said. “We put a couple wrinkles on our zone and it was effective. Thank god, because we didn’t really move the ball on offense. We looked rusty, we haven’t played since the Westhill game (a 53-43 defeat on March 1).

“We are going to have to play a lot better on Thursday to survive and advance. Credit to the kids, they hung in there after we got off to a bad start.”

Trumbull will host No. 22 seed Ridgefield High (12-10) in an all-FCIAC showdown in the second round on Thursday night at 7. The Tigers upset No. 11 seed Xavier High, 54-53 in overtime, in their first-round contest on Tuesday. Trumbull and Ridgefield last met in the FCIAC quarterfinals back on Feb. 27 — with the Eagles pulling out a 51-46 double overtime victory.

On Tuesday night, No. 27 South Windsor (9-12) opened the game with a 10-0 flurry, with Kewan Smoot pouring in eight of his 16 points. Trumbull then reeled off six in a row to close the frame, before David Caisse’s jumper trimmed the Bobcat margin to 14-13 with 5:07 left in the second quarter.

From there, South Windsor embarked on a 10-1 run to stretch their lead back to 24-14, with Shane Young (game-high 17 points) knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.

“They’re very good players,” Bray said of South Windsor’s junior duo of Smoot and Young, who combined for 33 of the Bobcats’ 38 points. “They’re very talented kids… I think we did a much better job on them in the second half.”

A 3-pointer from Moore and an old-fashioned three-point play from John McElroy cut Trumbull’s deficit to 24-20. The Eagles then used a 9-0 burst to the open the third, taking the lead for good on Bennett McCullough’s layup that made it 26-24.

A three-point play from Lyons pushed Trumbull’s edge to 29-24 and South Windsor never got closer than three points the rest of the way.

“Chris got us ignited, he got us going,” Bray said. “We started going to the rim more.”

Overall, a valiant effort wasn’t enough for South Windsor, which plays out of the ultra-competitive Central Connecticut Conference.

“It’s a good league and most of the coaches agree you can’t really look at their record,” Bray said.

Trumbull will now focus on a Ridgefield squad that it earned a pair of narrow wins over so far this season. The winner of that game will face either third-seeded Hillhouse or No. 14 East Hartford in the quarterfinals.

“This is one of the years that you have a good regular season and you want to make a deep run,” Bray said. “We are going to have to play better on Thursday.”