Trumbull boys dominate St. Joe's in second half, win 72-60

After a back-and-forth opening half between two cross-town rivals, it was Trumbull High School that was able to keep the good times rolling in the second half and upend St. Joseph High School 72-60 Saturday night.

"I am really happy for our seniors tonight," Trumbull head coach Buddy Bray said. We have seven seniors and it's great to coach them and have them play in this kind of venue with the crowd being so large. I told the kids in the huddle before the game started to make sure and have fun tonight. And we did."

For Trumbull, Eddie McElroy led all scorers with 29 points. He also added five assists, four steals and was 10-for-13 from the floor. Not to be outdone was Rashard Rodriguez, as the senior finished with 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Billy Brown added 14 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

The Cadets were paced by Mike Sulik, as he contributed with 19 points. The duo of Omar Telfer and Aaron Sells each finished with 10 points, while both Carmen Menefee and Joe Mangiamele each pitched in with nine points.

"We have to be able to go just a little bit deeper," St. Joe's head coach Chris Watts said. "I thought Trumbull played great tonight. Buddy [Bray] did a great job and always has his guys prepared. They played very hard tonight."

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. And the fans didn't disappoint, packing the building with fans from both schools.

"I just want to thank Mike King and the powers to be at St. Joe's for putting this together because it was a great event and for a good cause," Bray said. "That's the important thing. Basketball is one piece, but this was for a great cause and great to see. Both sides really turned it on. We had great fans all year and it was really nice to see the gym filled up. It was an exciting and very well-played basketball game."

For each $5 ticket that was sold, $1 was donated to the American Cancer Society.

"It was a great venue and I thought it was put together really well," St. Joseph head coach Chris Watts said. "The girls team had a great crowd as well. Kids play high school basketball wanting to play in front of crowds like that. You just hope you can come out on the winning end. We didn't do that tonight, but I thought both teams played hard and was probably entertaining watching the game."

After evenly-played start to the game, it was St. Joseph that took command early when Sulik grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on the putback to give the Cadets the 9-8 lead. On the team's next possession, Sells uncorked a successful three-pointer and was fouled on the play. After connecting on the foul shot, the Cadets lead was 13-8.

Trumbull immediately answered when Brown converted on the old-fashion three-point play and calmly drained his two foul shots during the team's next possession.

The Cadets again took the lead when Sells hit the baseline three-pointer with 1:05 left in the first and Mangiamele went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe with 39.1 seconds to play, but a buzzer-beating long distance three-pointer from the Eagles' Rodriguez cut the deficit to 17-16 after one.

"We kind of go as Rashard goes," Bray said. "He's a senior and three-year varsity starter. He has the experience and is a very good player. He's been a pleasure to coach and he knows what it's all about."

Again it was close throughout the second quarter and with the score tied at 30 with less than two minutes to play in the half, McElroy hit the layup, was fouled and hit is free throw to regain the lead for Trumbull. Rodriguez stole the ball on St. Joe's next possession and scored on the easy layup to extend the THS lead to 35-30, but again the Cadets charged back.

After an easy layup in the paint from Menefee, it was St. Joe's time to return the favor to Trumbull, as Mangiamele launched a deep three-pointer with no time on the clock to make the game knotted at 35.

"I think the size of the court made a big difference for us in the first half," Watts said. "It's a college court, so we were really able to spread it out and get our guys who like going to the rim doing that a little better. When Trumbull tried to trap us, they had a far way to run, so we were able to split that early on. Trumbull did a great job in the second half closing the court on us and were able to trap right away."

In the third quarter, the Eagles built a 45-37 lead after Rodriguez hit one of his two foul shots midway through the third, but the Cadets responded immediately when Menefee grabbed the offensive rebound and putback and Sulik drained the three-pointer with 2:45 remaining in the third to make the score 45-42.

However that's as close as St. Joseph would get, as McElroy came up clutch and sank back-to-back three-pointers to extend the THS lead to 51-42.

"Edward played a beautiful game for us," Bray said. "He had 29 points, really hit the big shots for us and was patient with his looks. We've been on a roller coaster where we couldn't hit the ocean if we were standing on the beach, but tonight Eddie and Rashard looked amazing. It's fun to watch Eddie when he shoots the basketball like that. He has such a great shot."

Trumbull dominated play in the final frame, starting the fourth on a 10-1 run to put the game out of reach. In that stretch, Rodriguez connected on two layups in the paint and Brown and Bennett McCullough each sank a mid-range jumpers.

"I think we were a little stronger coming off our bench and we kept on switching our defenses," Bray said. "Maybe that gave them some problems. But they had some very good shooters and they will be a very good team."