Girls basketball: Trumbull's depth making a difference

Steve Tobitsch credits a deep bench with his team's unbeaten record.
Steve Tobitsch credits a deep bench with his team's unbeaten record.

The Trumbull High girls basketball team showed off its half-court defense, and ultimately its depth, when coach Steve Tobitsch’s Eagles remained unbeaten with a 39-36 victory over defending FCIAC and state champion Stamford High.

Keeping constant pressure on the Black Knight’s ball-handler, and then challenging each pass, Trumbull didn’t allow a field goal in the first quarter and took a 10-1 lead into the break.

“Our half court defense is what we pride ourselves on,” said Tobitsch, whose team improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the FCIAC. “The person to blame in the second half was me. We stopped being aggressive and that is my fault,” Tobitsch said. The girls bailed me out. Defense kept us in it when the shots weren’t falling. The intensity at the end of the game was terrific.”

Brady Lynch provided help inside for the Eagles, while the trio of Kristen Pagliaro, Kelly O’Leary and Meghan Lesko were stalwarts on defense in the backcourt.

“We came out at the end of the fourth quarter and we played some girls off the bench and got our groove back,” said Tobitsch, who had rotated the players in throughout. “We’ve been trying to strengthen the depth of this team all year — tonight it was on display.

“Two juniors, Brady Lynch and Kristen Pagliaro, played big minutes off bench. Kelly O’Leary Pags and Megan Lesko helped us get back with pressure.

“Claudia Tucci, Aisling Maguire, Julie Keckler and Taylor Brown can play all three positions and we love having that versatility. Victoria Ray is glue for us with the ball. And yes, Taylor was a rock. Defensively, offensively, she’s another of our seniors with a lot of mental toughness and great character.”

Stamford (5-2, 3-2 FCIAC) improved its offense output in the second period to draw within 21-13 on Alexa Kellner’s 3-pointer.

Trumbull received five points from Keckler and two assists from Ray in the first period. In the second stanza, Brown buried a pair of 3-pointers and assisted on a Keckler trey with a skip pass. Ray had two more assists.

Stamford controlled play in the third quarter. Tucci scored two baskets in the period, before being called for her third foul and the Knights went on a 7-0 run to close the frame.

With the lead shrinking, Trumbull’s defense was pushed.

“Our coach says keep our heads in the game and stay together,” Keckler said. “We had to do a better job boxing out. We do one-on-ones in practice, helping on defense and talking all the time. We stuck together as a team.”

Trumbull’s offensive woes continued as its scoreless skein stretched to 12 possessions. Stamford added eight more points to take a 31-27 lead with 3:56 remaining.

Tucci returned to the court and took an entry pass from Ray, which she turned into a three-point play with a fine move to her left.

Stamford led 35-30 at the 1:20 mark, but Brown buried her third 3-pointer.

Keckler stole the inbounds pass and Tobitsch called for a time out with 50 seconds left.

Maguire deflected the ball back in play after an Eagle miss. Brown located Tucci open and the senior drained a shot from the elbow to make it 36-35.

Tucci rebounded a missed Stamford free throw and Maguire’s runner from the right wing gave Trumbull the lead at 37-36 with 30 seconds remaining.

Keckler rebounded a missed shot by Stamford, was fouled, and made both free throws.

Kellner looked to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but Keckler tipped the shot and Tucci gathered it in to secure the victory.

Brown finished with 12 points, Tucci 11, Keckler 10 and Maguire six.

Roundup: Trumbull defeated Brien McMahon, 55-22, in Norwalk on Tuesday. Claudia Tucci scored 15 points . Aisling Maguire scored 12 points, Julie Keckler seven and Kelly O’Leary made a pair of 3-pointers. Victoria Ray and Keckler each had five assists.