Girls basketball: Trumbull stops Simsbury in state opener

The Trumbull High girls basketball team withstood an upset bid from visiting Simsbury High in their Class LL state tournament opener on Monday night, posting a 43-38 victory over the Trojans.

“This was not your typical 24 seed,” Trumbull High head coach Steve Tobitsch said of Simsbury, playing out of the always-tough Central Connecticut Conference. “If you look at their 10 losses this year, eight of the 10 were to the top 10 teams in the state. We just happened to get a bad seed based on five teams being 17-3… They easily could have been a quarterfinal team.”

Claudia Tucci led the ninth-seeded Eagles with 15 points and Alyssa Breunig chipped in with 13. Tucci scored six of her game-high 15 markers in the opening 3:22 of the fourth quarter, helping Trumbull snap a 29-29 tie after three.

Taylor Brown’s layup high off the glass with 3:15 left to play staked Trumbull to its largest lead of the game, 38-31. That ended up the Eagles final field goal of the contest, but Breunig knocked down 5-of-6 from the foul line to keep the Trojans at bay down the stretch.

“There are no easy games, only 16 teams are left,” Tobitsch said. “I’m really proud of the effort.”

With the victory, Trumbull (19-4) advanced to the second round, where No. 8 seed South Windsor (21-4) awaits on Wednesday night at 7. The Wildcats turned aside No. 25 Newington High, 51-35, in their first-round matchup on Saturday.

“They’ve been to back-to-back state finals,” Tobitsch said. “They have two 1,000-point scorers (Molly Murphy and Alex Goslin) in their starting lineup. I think we are going to be ready for challenge… Just because we are going on the road wearing the black uniforms, we have just as good of chance as anyone to pick them off.”

Simsbury (10-11) hung tough all game on Monday, using a balanced scoring effort that resulted in eight players making field goals. Reserve guard Jenna Gregoire led the Trojans with 10 points — including their lone basket of the second quarter, a 3-pointer.

The second quarter saw both teams saddled with foul trouble, as the Eagles outscored Simsbury 6-3 to carry a 16-12 lead into the locker room at halftime.

“I was most impressed with our bench in the second quarter,” Tobitsch said. “I thought Kristen Pagliaro and Alexandra Szabo came in and gave us huge minutes to hold down the fort when we were in foul trouble.”

Trumbull near trailed in the second half, despite Tara White drilling a 3-pointer for Simsbury to tie the game at 29 heading into the fourth quarter.

Tucci’s barrage keyed a 10-3 Eagle run to arm Trumbull with a 39-32 advantage, before McKenna Finken’s three-point play narrowed Simsbury’s gap to 39-35.

Simsbury never whittled it down to a single possession over the final 1:38, as Trumbull reached the second round of states for the second year in a row.