Persistence pays off for Trumbull girls hoopsters against St. Joe's

Early on everything was going the St. Joseph High School girls basketball team's way during their battle with cross-town rival Trumbull High School Saturday night.

The Cadets dominated the final minutes of the first quarter and built a 20-10 lead. However the Eagles were patient and proved that consistency pays off. Instead of panicking, Trumbull inched closer in the second and pulled away in fourth quarter to claim the 44-34 victory.

"We got outplayed in the second half," St. Joseph head coach Chris Lindwall said. "Steve [Tobitsch] did a great job and those kids made shots. We didn't and that's what it came down to. We played good defense throughout the whole game."

"It was really cool and we had a lot of fans to help us when we were down," Trumbull's Kalisse Eldridge said. "They got us back up and we got the win today as a team. The first half we let them score 18 point, but we got back and we kept them to 16 points the rest of the way."

Trumbull was led by Amanda Pfohl, who finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Not to be outdone was Alyssa Breunig, who grabbed nine points, five rebounds and one assist.

"This felt awesome," Pfohl said. "This is our rival team and doing this for such a great cause is great. I give St. Joe's credit because they played awesome, but we played really hard and came down to who wanted it more."

Eldridge pitched in with eight points and two assists, while Danielle McGillicuddy finished with three points, four assists and four rebounds. Kate O'Leary also added seven rebounds and four assists.

"I know everybody's going to talk about Amanda's performance, but she gained so much attention from their defense," Trumbull High head coach Steve Tobitsch said. "I thought our senior point guard Danielle McGillicuddy was fantastic getting us in and out of sets and did a great job slowing down their point guard. Kate O'Leary's box outs defensively really kept St. Joe's off the boards and limited them to one shot possessions. I also thought that Alyssa Breunig showed unbelievable maturity and growth tonight. She's come a long way."

For the Cadets, Bridget Sharnick led all scorers with 19 points, while her sister Caitlin Sharnick pitched in with five points. Maite Gritsko added four points, while Ana DoCarmo and Shannon O'Meara each finished with three points.

The game was played at Fairfield University's Alumni Hall to accommodate the larger crowd as part of the Officials vs. Cancer Battle for Trumbull game.

"This was an awesome environment," Tobitsch said. "I have to give Coach Lindwall a lot of credit because he did a lot to organize this, as did both school's athletic directors. It was a fantastic job and it was a special night. I'm so glad we had such a great turnout for the girls game. To come out on top made things better."

And the fans didn't disappoint, packing the building with fans from both schools. For each $5 ticket that was sold, $1 was donated to the American Cancer Society.

"It was awesome," Lindwall said. "To be honest, I can't thank the people at St. Joe's and at Trumbull for coming out and supporting the girls. To be here for this event, I truly can't thank them enough. It was great to see and great for basketball and great for our town. I am so proud of my kids because this wasn't an easy atmosphere to play in and they played so hard."

After a back-and-forth start to the game, the Cadets opened things up to end the first by going on an 8-0 run to end the quarter. Bridget Sharnick connected on the old-fashion three-pointer and was Caitlin Sharnick hit the layup under the basket. After Bridget Sharnick went 1-for-2 from the line, Gritsko ended the first with a mid-distance jumper.

"The kids were very focused today," Lindwall said. "They believed in what was going on and believed in what they were doing. We missed a couple of key shots and had some key possessions out of timeouts where we thought we had good plays to run, but we kind of got lost in what we were going to do."

But then the Cadets went ice cold from the floor and the Eagles came storming back. In fact, a reverse layup by Bridget Sharnick with 6:15 to play in the second were the lone points St. Joe's would get until the start of the third quarter.

"We just had that lull in the second quarter that really hurt us," Lindwall said. "It took away a lot of our momentum and give it to them. We were in our spot and I thought we were good to go, but we started forcing things and went away from what we do."

A layup from Pfhol started the comeback. After Vetter hit both her foul shots with 5:16 to cut the deficit to 20-14, Bruenig hit another foul shot with 1:13 left in the half and Pfhol stole the ball and connected on the layup to make the halftime score 20-17.

"Every program has a staple and for Trumbull our staple is defense first," Tobitsch said. "In the first quarter, we lost a couple of their shooters and they got 18 points, but we were able to settle down and hold them to 18 the rest of the game. It wasn't pretty, but in a game and atmosphere like this, we can't complain."

After a third quarter that showed that the outcome was certainly up for grabs, it was Trumbull's defense and the unkind rims for the Cadets that dominated the fourth.

With 6:05 to play, a three-pointer by Bridget Sharnick gave St. Joseph the 34-33 lead. Not to be outdone was Pfohl, who drained a baseline three-pointer 15 seconds later to reclaim the two-point lead for THS.

Sharnick's bucket turned out to be the last points of the game for the Cadets. After Pfohl's three-pointer, two foul shots from Eldridge extended the Trumbull lead to 38-34. The duo of Bruenig, and Claudia Tucci sank foul shots the rest of the way for the 44-34 victory.

"The fans helped us when we were down," O'Leary said. "It was a team effort. Everybody stepped up and I tried to do my best rebounding and playing defense, since my offensive game was struggling."