Breaking down Trumbull's win over St. Joseph

Billy Brown sank a transition layup at the buzzer to give the Trumbull High boys basketball team a 75-74 triumph over visiting St. Joseph in an FCIAC showdown on Jan. 31.

“It was an exciting boys basketball game, that’s for sure,” Eagles coach Buddy Bray said. “It seemed like to me, that whole fourth quarter, the last possession of the game was going to win the game. I think it was to our favor we didn’t have any timeouts left because we caught them in transition.”

On the previous possession, Jonathan Dzurenda’s basket had given the Cadets a one-point edge with eight seconds left.

Rashard Rodriguez quickly inbounded the ball with the Eagles out of timeouts, with Eddie McElroy catching the pass. McElroy then found a streaking Brown — who laid it up and in from the left block at the final horn.

“Right when they scored, I just sprinted up the floor,” Brown said. “It was a great pass by Eddie… I tried to get myself the best shot available.”

Said Rodriguez:

“I knew after the bucket, they thought they had it and we needed to bring it up court as fast as we could. Right when the ball went in, there was no hesitation, I just kicked it out and hoped for the best.”

Matt Turner poured in a game-high 27 points to lead Trumbull (6-6), which posted its first win over St. Joseph (4-8) since the 2005-06 season. A sophomore point guard, Turner had 17 points in the first half to help the Eagles establish a 39-29 advantage.

“I think he’s going to get some more respect now,” Bray said. “I know he’s only a sophomore but he played a heck of a basketball game at the point guard position against a very good team.”

Rodriguez and McElroy added 14 points apiece for Trumbull, while Brown had 12.

Dzurenda had 26 points for St. Joseph, which dropped its second game in a row. Erick Langston chipped in with 16 points and Arkel Ager had 12. Raekwon Reid and Joe Mangiamele scored eight points each.

It was a bitter setback for the Cadets, who overturned a 12-point second-half deficit to twice take the lead in the final 38.6 seconds. Both times, the Eagles responded.

After Turner’s jumper snapped 69-69 tie with 54 seconds left, Dzurenda converted an old-fashioned three-point play in the paint to stake St. Joseph to its first lead of the game, 72-71.

Brown drew a foul on the other end, cooling sinking both free throws to give the lead back to Trumbull. Dzurenda then slid into the lane and tossed in a layup with under eight seconds left.

“We were lucky enough to put the ball in the hands of one of the better guys on our team, who knows how to get to the rack pretty well,” St. Joseph coach Chris Watts said. “And he did that.”

But the Cadets, as they were all night, were slow to get back in defensive position.

“We weren’t getting back in transition from the beginning of the game all the way to the end of the game,” Watts said. “We did not get back in transition... We had one guy back on D, Erick Langston. He got back. The guards were up a little bit, putting on pressure…. One pass up the floor and they took it in.”

Brown’s game-winning basket set off a ebullient celebration by the Trumbull student fans, who flooded onto the court to celebrate alongside the Eagles.

“Our crowd was fantastic,” Bray said. “Those kids really came out tonight and we appreciate that.”

Turner gave the fans plenty to cheer about in the first quarter, draining three 3-pointers en route to 13 markers that helped Trumbull build a 22-15 advantage after one.

Druzenda’s runner got the Cadets within five points, 32-27, with 2:40 left in the half, but Trumbull reeled off a 7-2 run to take a 39-29 lead into the locker room at break.

Rodriguez kept the Eagles out in front by scoring his team’s first six points of the second half, before St. Joseph tied the game up at 53 with a 10-0 flurry.

Ager’s basket off of an offensive rebound forged the deadlock, until McElroy’s putback at the buzzer staked Trumbull to a 55-53 edge heading into the final stanza.

The Eagles stayed out in front for a majority of the period aided by strong free-throw shooting, making 5-of-6 from the line in the fourth quarter and 13-of-14 for the game.

With the loss, time is running short for the Cadets to make a playoff push. They need to split their final eight games to qualify for the state tournament and are in jeopardy of missing out FCIAC tournament.

While working in newly-eligible transfers Ager and Mangiamele, along with Reid — in his first game back after an injury — St. Joseph needs to do its meshing in a compressed amount of time.

“It’s got to start happening right away. It’s like Def-Con 3 right now,” Watts said. “If we don’t start playing and start playing together, we’re going to find ourselves out of the FCIAC tournament.

“I don’t think for a second we’ll be out of the state tournament… Since St. Joseph has gone into the FCIAC, I don’t think we’ve been out of the playoffs.

“We definitely have to start going right now, we can’t wait for chemistry to start.

“The kids have got to start sensing the urgency like I’ve been sensing the urgency.”