Eagles left it all on the court

The Trumbull High girls basketball team finished a couple of baskets short of earning a trip to the Class LL  finals, and Eagles’ coach Steve Tobitsch was proud, not disappointed, after second-seeded Lauralton Hall advanced with a 44-36 semifinal round win before a packed house at Fairfield Ludlowe on Monday night.

“I thought our girls competed on every play and we didn’t give up anything easy,” Tobitsch said after his third-seeded cagers finished the campaign with a 20-3 record.

Lauralton Hall (21-1) will play top-seeded Mercy High of Middletown (22-1) for the state title at the Mohegun Sun Arena in Uncasville on Friday or Saturday.

Crusader coach Amanda Forcucci agreed with Tobitsch’s assessment of the game.

“The ultimate compliment is to play well when challenged, and Trumbull is a phenomenal team,” Forcucci said.

“They have an inside-outside game and are very patient on offense. On defense they know their assignments and we knew after beating a great Career team (in the quarterfinals) they’d be ready.

“We knew we had to be poised and ready to play defense for as long as it took, because they will run and rerun their sets looking for an opening.

“Their defense sagged in to double Olivia Levey and then knew when to lay off.

“Everyone on this team has learned from the seniors that you have to share the minutes and share the effort. That’s why everyone on this team is a part of this (trip to the finals).”

And, it was Trumbull’s seniors — Alexa Pfohl and Erin Moore — that tried to lift their team on their backs offensively.

Pfohl scored seven of her 10 points in the final stanza, when the Eagles twice drew within three points and trailed only 38-36 with 2:51 remaining.

Moore scored all eight of her points in the third period when the Eagles had to headoff a Crusader charge toward a double-digit advantage.

The senior tandem had plenty of help, as Trumbull made Lauralton Hall, which was averaging 73 points through 22 games, battle for every point and rebound.

Lauren Hyde spearheaded the intense Eagles’ defense, as the junior limited dribble penetration and doubled down to help limit entry passes to Levey,  the St. Francis (N.Y.)-bound senior.

After junior Joyce Woolen opened the game with a baseline jumper, Trumbull took a 10-9 lead after one period on classmate Rachel Carron’s runner in the lane.

Sophomore Amanda Pfohl swished home a 3-pointer during this stretch, and a four-pass sequence freed sophomore Katie O’Leary for another bucket.

Woolen took a pass from Hyde and buried a 10-footer to begin the second period, the Eagles didn’t score on seven straight possessions.

Michelle DeSantis, who scored 12 points, including four game-closing free throws, helped the Crusaders to a six-point lead in the second period.

While Levey was held to seven points to go with seven boards, the Crusaders found other avenues and scored on 4-of-5 possessions to open the second quarter to take an 18-12 lead.

Carron scored from the wing to end the drought.

It was 20-16 after Alexa Pfohl’s hoop with 22 seconds left, when the Hall’s Maggie Salandra made a clutch 3-pointer to send her team into the locker room up by seven.

Moore’s steal off a pass to Levey led to a Hyde bucket in traffic to start the third quarter.

Great defense doesn’t always stop great offense, as Lauralton scored hoops on three straight trips — two baskets by Levey and another 3-pointer from Salandra.

This is when Moore stepped forward to keep the game within range.

Alexa Pfohl’s 3-pointer made it 33-29, but DeSantis scored a buzzer-beating basket to provide Lauralton with a 35-29 lead with one quarter to play.

The Eagles limited Lauralton to three free throws for the first five-plus minutes, before Carly Fabbri drew contact while scoring on a baseline drive and Trumbull called for time down four with 2:14 left.

The Eagles turned the ball over twice on their next two possessions, and that’s when DeSantis made her four free throws.