Targeted Eagles fall to Ridgefield Tigers

Trumbull girls basketball head coach Steve Tobitsch stood outside the locker room at Masuk High following the Eagles’ 60-27 dismantling of Hamden in the opening game of the Masuk Holiday Tournament on Dec. 26, and issued a warning.

“Make no mistake about it, there are some serious challenges up ahead for our team,” he said. “We are in a very strong conference and we need to come out prepared to face those challenges in every game.”

Those words rang true in the final, where Trumbull was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten after dropping a 44-31 decision to Ridgefield on Dec. 28. Amanda Pfohl and Kristina Vetter were named to the All-Tournament team.

It was just two weeks ago when Trumbull wrestled away a 49-41 overtime decision from Ridgefield to remain undefeated.

Trumbull, 18-2 last season reached the Class LL semifinals and came into the season with a target on its back.

Following the loss to the Tigers that target may have gotten smaller, but rest assured the target still remains.

“We weren’t mentioned in any of the season previews as a team that would contend for a title,” said Tobitsch. “So we need to come out and earn that respect.”

The Eagles came into the tournament with a defense that had allowed an average of 14 points per game, not counting the overtime thriller with Ridgefield.

That defense was on display from the opening tip-off against Hamden, as four of the first five possessions for the Green Dragons ended in steals. That quickly produced a 9-0 Trumbull lead when Rachel Carron took one down the lane off a steal with 4:38 remaining in the first period.

Nine steals led to 11 Hamden turnovers, as the Green Dragons remained scoreless.

Kate O’Leary knocked one down off the window on an assist from Joyce Woolen.

On the next trip down the floor, Dani McGillicuddy (13 points) rippled the net on a 3-pointer and freshman Taylor Brown (nine points) finished the damage with a bucket in the lane to give the Eagles a 16-0 lead going into the second period.

Trumbull held a distinctive advantage on the boards, outrebounding Hamden by a 26-13 margin and ended up with 14 steals that led to 19 turnovers.

But the Green Dragons finally unleashed their offense, with Kathleen Shultz hitting the first basket with 5:20 left in the half.

Lauren Singleton (13 points) got hot and buried three 3-pointers, as Hamden hung 16 points on the scoreboard in the second period.

It did very little to close the gap. Pfohl (12 points) was up for the challenge, knocking down three treys for the Eagles and Vetter scored seven of her 11 points in the low post to give Trumbull a commanding 36-16 lead at the break.

“Our strength is our depth and the ability to play defense,” said Tobitsch. “That is why I was upset at halftime after we allowed Hamden to score 16 points in the second period.

“We didn’t play to our strength and didn’t remain aggressive. We have a lot of versatility on this team. Girls who can play multiple positions, everyone can handle the ball in traffic, and they can all box out and attack the boards.

“But we can not afford to lose our focus like we did in the second period, because then you start developing bad habits. We need to stay aggressive the entire game no matter what the score is.”

Trumbull came out in the second half with Kalisse Eldridge making her presence felt on the boards and Maggie Parisi keeping up the defensive pressure, as Hamden managed just six points in the third period.

Claudia Tucci (seven points) tossed in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to end the period with the Eagles hanging another 11 points on the scoreboard to take a comfortable 47-22 advantage into the final period.

The Green Dragons managed just two baskets in the final eight minutes of the game, as Monica Reardon applied the pressure that helped create another four turnovers for Hamden.

Alyssa Breunig attacked the boards to allow Trumbull an 8-3 edge in rebounds giving the Eagles second chances to put up another 13 points to complete the 60-27 victory.

Trumbull will be back in action on Friday at Ludlowe at 7 p.m.