St Joseph-Trumbull boys
Once the St. Joseph High boys basketball team kicks its game into high gear, opponents are more times than not wrenched into a track-meet style contest with the Cadets.
On a cold night in front of a full-house at the Vito Montelli Gym Friday night, the Trumbull Eagles simply couldn’t keep up in losing an 82-51 decision.
“They (St. Joseph) force you into that up-style type of play,” said Trumbull coach Buddy Bray whose team left the gym with a 2-7 record. “Their pressure forces you play faster. That’s not really a pace that we can play at. We need to keep the game in the 60s, not in the 80s.”
The approach for coach Chris Watts’ fourth-ranked Cadets is simple yet productive, as they use full-court zone pressure right from the opening tap.
Against the Eagles, St. Joseph built up a 25-7 first-quarter lead behind the pin-point shooting of senior guard Jake Pelletier, who had eight of his 15 points including two 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes.
“Our game is defense and setting the pace of the game where we want it,” Watts said. “I think our biggest asset is all of our players can handle the ball. We did graduate three starters, but the kids who’ve taken over (Pelletier, Raekwon Reid and Erick Langston) have filled the roles well.”
After trailing by 15 at intermission (41-26), the Eagles put together their best quarter of the game in the third.
Trumbull got it as close as 11, at 47-36, on a 3-pointer by Luke Waldek with 3:49 to play. From there, the Cadets (10-1) took off again to lead 55-37 at quarter’s end before going to the foul line 19 times in the final session.
Quincy McKnight had a game-high 16 points while pulling down eight rebounds. Langston, a junior forward, had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The Cadets outrebounded the Eagles, 49-37 and had only 13 turnovers while Trumbull made 23.
Freshman guard Matt Turner paced Trumbull with 11 points and junior Jake Levison scored 11 and had six rebounds.
Sophomore Rashard Rodriquez had eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.
St. Joseph made 23-of-57 shots from the field (40 percent) and went 22-of-30 from the foul line.
Trumbull was 20-of-58 from the floor (34 percent) and 9-of-15 from the charity stripe.
“We’re young, but I know that this is a good experience for our kids,” Bray said. “Now, we need to look at the bigger picture. We have to fight through it, continue to practice hard, and look for a few wins.”
Meanwhile, the Cadets, two-time defending Class LL state champs, want to keep the pressure on opponents.
“I’d like to see us get the ball to Jake Pelletier a little more much later in the game,” Watts said. “He’s always a good early-game scorer and helps build up those quick leads. After that, we don’t get the ball in his hands enough We need to stick more to our half-court offense.”
Trumbull lost a 52-39 home decision to Stamford High on Jan. 15.
Against Stamford, Trumbull fell behind 17-12 after one period, played the Knights one better in the middle quarters (9-9, 7-6), before the visitors closed with a 20-11 run.
Levison scored 13 points and had nine rebounds.
Rodriguez scored seven points and John Watts six.