Trumbull basketball wins OT thriller, advances to FCIAC semis
Saturday's Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference quarterfinal game certainly lived up to the hype, as the No. 4 seeded Trumbull High boys basketball team took on fifth-seeded Stamford.
Needing an extra session to crown a victor, the Eagles were able to outlast the Black Knights 59-56 and advance to the FCIAC semifinals.
"We gave a couple of games away this year and we were in every basketball game," Trumbull High School head coach Buddy Bray said. "We will prepare and get ourselves ready but the kids are confident and they are having fun. We were here in 2010 and got knocked out in the first round, so we are advancing and it's nice. I am really happy for the seven seniors, the rest of the team and the coaching staff to experience this. It's a lot of fun."
With the victory, Trumbull advanced to Tuesday's FCIAC semifinal game for the first time since the 1997 season. The game will be played at Fairfield Warde High School.
"This was easily the biggest win of the year for us," Brown said. "It's playoff time and any win in the playoffs is great."
Trumbull was led by Eddie McElroy, as he finished with a team-high 24 points and added three steals. Ben McCullough had 10 of his 12 points in the second half and also pulled down 10 rebounds. Not to be outdone was Rashard Rodriguez, as he finished with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Chris Lyon added four points for the Eagles and rounding out the scoring for THS was Brown, as he netted eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
However, it was Brown's performance down the stretch in overtime that helped seal the victory for the Eagles.
With 2:21 to play in the extra session and trailing 54-53, Brown grabbed the offensive rebound, scored on the putback and was fouled. He calmly hit is foul sot to give Trumbull the two-point lead. A minute later, Brown was fouled and connected on both his foul shots to extend the lead to 58-54.
The play that Brown won't forget for quite some time happened with 16.5 seconds to play. Stamford's Kweshon Askew was at the line and on his second miss on the charity stripe, Brown jumped up and grabbed the rebound to give the ball back to THS.
He sank one of his two foul shots to make the score 59-56 and that turned out to be the difference.
"I was struggling all game and they have some really good interior guys," Brown said. "All game I was driving and wasn't getting much. It felt really good to finally pull through in the biggest part of the game. I missed a couple of foul shots earlier in the game, so it felt great to hit them when it mattered most."
For Stamford, Gianni Carwin led the way with 16 points, while Malik Clayborne finished with 14 points. Askew contributed with 13 points and Rich Benoit added nine points.
"That is a good program, a good coach and got some talented players," Bray said. "I was expecting them to make a run. We didn't value some possessions at the end and we didn't rebound until the last play. We finally got that big rebound that we needed. Credit Stamford and credit our kids for hanging tough in overtime."
After Stamford took a quick 7-6 lead to start the game, the Eagles stormed back with a 12-3 to grab a 18-10 lead with 2:57 left in the half.
McElroy got the ball rolling during that stretch with a breakaway layup and then ended the first quarter with a clutch three-pointer from the baseline to give THS the 11-7 lead. After Brown went 1-for-2 from the line to start the second, McElroy hit the breakaway layup.
After Benoit hit his layup and converted on the old-fashion three-point play with 5:23 left in the half, McElroy was fouled and hit both shots to extend the Trumbull lead to 18-10.
Stamford came back and cut the lead to 20-17 with less than 30 seconds to play, but McElroy came up huge again and sank a baseline three-pointer with six seconds left to make the halftime score 23-18.
Again the Black Knight cut into a THS lead in third quarter, but again McElroy came through with a baseline three-pointer to close out the quarter and helped extend the lead to 39-33.
"Everything I told the kids during practice over the past few days about what to expect," Bray said. "Forget the first matchup and expect a real good game on a neutral court. We didn't shoot especially well, but we were 15-for-31 in the second half and [Ben] McCullough made some big shots. Eddie was as consistent as he's been for us all year shooting the basketball."
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Eagles and Black Knights exchanged clutch shots. With 3:48 to play in regulation, Clayborne hit the jumper and then forced a steal and converted on the layup to tie the game at 47-47 with 3:27 to play.
Carwin gave Stamford the lead when he hit both his foul shots with 3:13 to play, but McCullough hit the baseline floater shortly after to knot the game at 49-49. Earlier in the fourth, McCullough took two fantastic dishes from Rodriguez and connected on the layups under the basket to give Trumbull the edge.