Boys basketball: Trumbull advances with win over Warde

Trumbull High’s boys basketball team overcame a tough sequence of events that saw host Fairfield Warde take its only lead late in the fourth quarter and rallied back to defeat the Mustangs 65-58 in the FCIAC tournament quarterfinals on Saturday.

The Eagles’ Timmond Williams led the way with 29 points, including a clutch 11-for-12 performance from the free throw line — within that total was a perfect 6-for-6 effort from the charity stripe in the final period.

The fifth-seeded Eagles advanced to a semifinal-round contest with eighth-seeded Norwalk, a 59-50 upset winner over No. 1 Ridgefield, in Wilton on Tuesday, at 7:45 p.m.

“To get this young team back here in the semis, I’m very proud of them,” Trumbull coach Buddy Bray said of his team that boasts a lineup exclusively made up of freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

Fourth-seeded Warde led 30-25 at halftime.

The Eagles got 14 of their 21 third-quarter points from Williams, who canned a trio of 3-pointers in the eight-minute block, and claimed a 46-45 lead heading to the fourth quarter. They went up by as many as five points on a pair of Williams free throws, 1:15 into the period.

With the Eagles leading 55-52 and less than three minutes remaining, the momentum momentarily heavily in Warde’s favor.

Following a defensive rebound by Trumbull’s Evan Gutowski, the Eagles lost the ball out of bounds. Warde standout Sean Conway (26 points) drove to the rim for two points. An inbound violation gave the Mustangs possession and Conway banked a shot off the glass and just like that it was 56-55 Warde with 2:15 to play.

Time out Trumbull.

Williams was fouled and had a one and one opportunity with 1:35 remaining. Williams sank both shots for a 57-56 Trumbull lead.

Chris Brown made a rebound on the defensive end and, while falling out of bounds, banked the ball off a Warde player to enable the Eagles to retain possession.

Trumbull broke Warde’s full-court press, and in the double bonus Quentar Taylor made the second of two foul shots for a 58-56 lead with 1:09 left.

Gutowski got to another defensive rebound and Williams followed with two more freebies, making it a two-possession game at 60-56 with 49 ticks left on the clock.

Warde’s Matt Becker cut the lead in half, before Brown hit a foul shot and it was 61-58 with 27 seconds to go.

The Mustangs lost the handle, and possession with it as the ball went out of bounds.

Brown set up Mileeq Green for a basket with 14 seconds left, and Brown next put an exclamation point on the victory with a steal and dunk in the waning seconds.

Gutowski dropped in 15 points, Brown had 13 and Green added seven.

Gutowski pulled down 10 rebounds. Brown dished out five assists. Taylor had four assists and four rebounds.

Bray noted that his team had to win its final two games against tough foes Bridgeport Central and Danbury — the Eagles came out on top in both, by a combined eight points — just to qualify for the conference tourney.

Bray said his team seemed to have the attitude that it was “playing with house money,” and he called a team meeting after practice the day before the postseason got going.

“We weren’t good at practice yesterday. I’ll be the first to tell you, way too loose,” Bray said.

The attitude of being happy to be in the FCIAC dance was quickly changed.

“We refocused. Today’s a new day, it’s game day. We refocused and came out with the win,” Williams said. “I’m very happy. We played together as a team. We played great defense.”

Bray also said it was a strong team effort, but pointed to the defensive work of Brown, as well as Green off the bench, on Warde’s Conway.

Williams hit four of Trumbull’s six shots from downtown. Warde was 13-of-19 from the foul line and hit three shots from beyond the arc.