Boys basketball: Trumbull makes move one year early

Trumbull coach Buddy Bray has guided his senior-less squad to the FCIAC semifinals.
Trumbull coach Buddy Bray has guided his senior-less squad to the FCIAC semifinals.

Once considered to be a year away, coach Buddy Bray’s Trumbull High boys basketball team is now one win away from bringing home the FCIAC championship.

So how did Bray and his coaching staff, without a senior on the roster following a 20-4 season, put the Eagles in position to bring Trumbull its first FCIAC title in 35 years?

“It’s not just two or three guys touching the basketball. It about other players get their looks as well,” Bray said after his Eagles advanced to the finals with an 82-75 thriller over the Norwalk Bears before a packed house at the Zeoli Field House in Wilton on Tuesday night.

“We like to say ten toes in; not just going with one player. We have be unselfish, make the extra pass and find the hot shooter.”

The Eagles checked — and needed to double check — each of those boxes to turn back the Bears.

“Timmond Williams and Chris Brown are our ‘Splash Brothers,’” Bray said of his his junior stalwarts, who finished with 27 and 22 points, respectively. “Quentar Taylor (10 points) was solid at the point, controlling the offense. Evan Gutowski had some big baskets early and late. He made some nice moves inside and rebounded very well. J.P. Fromageot and J.T. Theriault did good things for us.

“With Cape Holden out (with an illness) we had to switch our rotation and (freshman) Mileeq Green played above his age. He missed ninety percent of the season after he tore ligaments in our second game of the year. He’s given us energy off the bench and tonight he steps to the foul line and buries them (his attempts).

“No pressure — no diamond. That is what is written on our whiteboard in the locker room. There is going to be pressure, it builds as you get better. The players persevered. I’m very proud of them.”

Trumbull forced turnovers and used its transition game to go on a 27-14 run in the second quarter. That spurt extended the Eagles’ 18-16 lead after one period to 45-30 at the half.

The advantage ballooned to 18 in the third quarter, before Tyrique Langley nailed a 3-pointer to narrow the Bears’ deficit to 62-48 after three periods.

Langley (21 points), Zyaire Sellers (12 points) and Xavier Vines kept plugging away, and the Trumbull lead kept shrinking, until the Bears had whittled it down to a mere three points.

“I knew they wouldn’t go away,” Bray said of how Norwalk coach Tommy Keyes’ would have his club respond to Trumbull’s lead at the half. “I knew that, but I had to convince that young team in the locker room that there was still a lot of game to be played. Norwalk hits the three, hits the glass and they have number zero (NBA star) Russell Westbrook (aka Langley) getting to the rim.”

After intermission, Norwalk (13-9) showed the mettle that had carried the No. 8 seed to a 59-50 upset of No. 1 seed Ridgefield in the quarterfinal round.

Langley had eight points on a hoop, three free throws and a 3-pointer that made it a 14-point game with one quarter to play. Conner Mastropietro (16 points) made a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth, when Norwalk closed the gap to only three points in the final minute.

That’s when Green, who finished with 17 points, made a brace of free throws in the final minute. Gutowski had a crucial putback, and Williams and Brown had eight points each in the closing frame to hold off the Bears.

Trumbull (17-5) will play Danbury (19-3) for the title at Zeoli on Thursday night at 7. The third-seeded Hatters upended Trinity Catholic, the second seed, 43-40 in the first semi-final game.

“That is a great Danbury team and the Big Lights will be on,” Bray said. “This is my first final as a head coach. Our last champion (from Trumbull) was 35 years ago when we had Harold Jensen, Johnny Pfohl and Billy Brown (leading the way).”