Eagles ousted by Hilltoppers

The second-seeded Bridgeport Central boys basketball team rolled to a 105-78 win over visiting Trumbull High on March 11, in the first round of the Class LL state tournament.

“It was a good experience for our kids,” Trumbull coach Buddy Bray said. “This was great for our program tonight, getting to the tournament. It was a tough draw, but it was our own fault for not winning some of those close games during the season.”

Tyler Ancrum led the Hilltoppers (23-1) with 26 points, while Sha’quan Bretoux added 25. Marcus Blackwell chipped in with 19 points and Orhan Cecunjamin had 14.

Central will host No. 15 seed Norwich Free Academy (15-6) tonight at 7 p.m. in a second-round matchup.

Eddie McElroy scored 20 points for No. 31 seed Trumbull (8-13) and Matt Turner had 18. Rashard Rodriguez tossed in 11 points and Billy Brown 10, but the Eagles had trouble matching Central’s speed, athleticism and ability to score in transition.

All three of those Hilltopper attributes were on displaying during an 11-0 Central run to open the third quarter. The cagey Eagles had got to within two points, 43-41, on Brown’s basket with 1:19 left to play in the first half.

Bretoux answered with a brace of free throws and Ancrum split the Trumbull defense for a layup to stake the Hilltoppers to a 47-41 halftime edge.

Coming out of the locker room, Central unleashed a stifling press that led to the game-altering 11-0 flurry.

“That start of that third quarter, we talked about the 2-2-1 press because of the score of the game, a seven-point game,” Bray said.

“As soon as we got out of the locker room, I said to them we’re going to see the 2-2-1.

“We had worked on it, but you can’t match Central’s speed and athleticism in practice. You can’t duplicate how they close gaps, their trapping. Their court coverage is as good as I’ve seen. They’re so athletic at every position — there are no weak spots.”

A 3-pointer from Bretoux ignited Central’s run, with Blackwell, who dominated the boards all night, converting a putback. Bray used a timeout attempting to halt the Hilltopper’s momentum, but Ancrum’s scoop layup made it 54-41.

Ancrum then lobbed an alley-oop to Orhan Cecunjamin, whose resounding dunk brought the boisterous crowd to its feet.

Dondre Daniels’ basket capped the 11-0 burst, before McElroy scored Trumbull’s first basket of the half at the 5:26 mark.

“You can’t let one bad play lead to another,” Bray said. “We didn’t do that, we should’ve fought through a turnover and valued the next possession... That’s when the game got out of hand.”

Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer and Turner threw in a runner, sandwiched around two free throws from Blackwell, making it a 67-50 Hilltopper advantage with 2:14 left in the period.

Central (23-1) then embarked on a 9-2 run to close the third, taking a 76-52 edge into the final stanza. From there, Trumbull trailed by 20 points or more the rest of the way.

Overall, it was a good learning experience for a Eagles’ team that will return its starting five next season and had just one senior.

“We have five starters coming back,” Bray said. “We’re in that process of learning how to make the extra pass, make people work on defense... We’re trying to learn to slow the game down... Good players learn to slow the game down.

“We couldn’t do that to them (the Hilltoppers).”