Trumbull girls basketball tops Darien, advances to FCIAC semis

Trumbull's Brady Lynch battles Darien's Rachel Stobbie for a rebound during the FCIAC quarterfinals Saturday in Norwalk. — Dave Stewart photo
Trumbull's Brady Lynch battles Darien's Rachel Stobbie for a rebound during the FCIAC quarterfinals Saturday in Norwalk. — Dave Stewart photo

As defending FCIAC champions and owners of the No. 1 seed, the Trumbull Eagles could easily have been caught looking past an opening-round game against the No. 8 Darien Blue Wave.

Instead, the Eagles approached the game with “respect.”

“I’m really proud of our girls because they really respected that eight seed,” Trumbull head coach Steve Tobitsch said. “That’s not a typical eight seed. They got off to a slow start at the beginning of the year, but I thought (Darien head coach) Melba Chambers did a great job all year long. We had a lot of respect for that team, especially (Katie Ramsay and Chrissie Fiore). They’re a tough match-up.”

With their focus on the task at hand, and some hot-shooting from distance, Trumbull started its title defense with a 54-46 victory over Darien in the FCIAC quarterfinals Saturday at Norwalk High School.

The Eagles (20-1) will now face No. 5 Stamford (15-6) in the semifinals at 7:45 p.m., Tuesday, at Ludlowe High School. It’s a rematch of last year’s final, which was won by Trumbull.

After getting the last few weeks of the season in order to reach the FCIAC tournament, Darien hung tough against Trumbull, but simply couldn’t slow down the Eagles’ shooters.

“It’s tough because they played hard and as a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” Chambers said. “Effort-wise, I have no complaints. I don’t want to negate the fact that we lost, but I don’t want to negate the fact that they played hard. So, we’ve got to prepare for states and we’ve got to do better.”

Led by seniors Fiore and Ramsay, Darien did a good job inside against Trumbull, but the Eagles kicked it out and nailed eight three-point baskets — four by senior Julie Keckler, who finished with a team-best 17 points.

“Trumbull shot the ball really well from three and that’s the difference in the game,” Chambers said. “We aren’t a great three-point shooting team, so we’ve got to make sure we finish around the basket and defensively, we’ve got to take away what they’re good at.”

‘We have a lot of girls who can put the basketball in the hoop,” Tobitsch said. “Darien forces you to shoot more jump shots. We tried to work the ball inside but it’s tough shooting over those two bigs (Ramsay and Fiore).”

Trumbull a big game from seniors Brady Lynch, who scored 14 points and was a force inside, and Aisling Maguire, who netted eight points.

“Our seniors stepped up really big,” Tobitsch said. “Brady Lynch had a tough match-up, but she moved her feet and she’s very athletic and that showed today. Julie Keckler is our first team all-conference player and we go as far as Julie Keckler goes. Aisling Maguire — that was the most aggressive I’ve seen her all season long, which is what we’ve encouraged her to do. This is the time you want seniors to step up — in the postseason.”

Fiore led the Wave offense with 19 points, and Ramsay added 14. Lindsay Dimonekas, a sophomore, was next with four points.

For the Darien seniors — Fiore, Ramsay and Hailey King — qualifying for the FCIAC tournament was a long-time goal they finally reached this year.

“As seniors, I’m glad they had an opportunity to actually play,” Chambers said. “This was their first one and I told them at the beginning of the game, ‘Yes, we want to win, but I want you to have fun. This is your first one and I want you to enjoy it. A win would be great, but I want you to live in the moment and appreciate this opportunity that you have because everybody doesn’t get it’.”

Trumbull took a 10-8 lead after the first quarter and a 16-9 lead early in the second when Keckler and Meghan O’Leary nailed three-pointers.

The Eagles’ advantage was 23-13 when Darien went on a 6-0 run and closed the gap to 23-19. That run included lay-up by Fiore and a three-pointer by Gwen Dolce

Trumbull answered with an 8-2 run for a 31-21 lead at halftime and pushed the score to 39-25 in the third quarter.

The Wave kept fighting, however, and made it a seven-point game, 40-33, early in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles again had a response, scoring the next six points to all but seal the game with a few minutes remaining.

With the semifinals now on deck, Tobitsch is hoping his players can continue to enjoy their time on the playoff court.

“I told them to enjoy this experience, whether it’s one game, two games — the league does a great job with this tournament,” the coach said. “Tuesday night is a very special night and they’ve earned the right to be there.

FCIAC Girls Basketball Quarterfinals - Trumbull 54, Darien 46

Saturday, Feb. 17, at Norwalk HS

Darien 8-13-10-15 46

Trumbull 10-21-9-14 54

Darien: Kelly Richter 1 1-3 3, Gwen Dolce 1 0-0 3, Lindsay Dimonekas 1 2-2 4, Katie Ramsay 4 6-8 14, Christine Fiore 8 3-8 19, Rachel Stobbie 0 0-0 0, Hailey King 0 0-0 0, Hassana Arbubakrr 1 1-2 3. Totals 16 13-23 46

Trumbull: Jessica Lipinski 0 0-0 0, Meghan Lesko 1 0-0 3, Bella McCain 0 0-0 0, Kelly O’Leary 1 0-2 3, Krystina Schueler 2 0-0 4, Jenna DeSabella 0 0-0 0, Aisling Maguire 3 1-2 8, Julie Keckler 4 5-7 17, Cassi Barbato 2 0-0 5, Gianna Ghitsa 0 0-0 0, Allie Palmieri 0 0-0 0, Brady Lynch 5 4-7 14. Totals 18 10-18 54

3-pointers: Darien - Dolce; Trumbull - Kechler 4, Lesko, O’Leary, Maguire, Barbato