Westhill defeats Trumbull in FCIAC basketball semifinal

Trumbull High boys basketball head coach Buddy Bray put it best when he summed up Westhill High of Stamford’s 68-61 victory over his Eagles in the FCIAC semifinals played before a packed house at Fairfield Warde on Wednesday night.

“Credit Westhill. They’ve been driving a Ferrari (19-1 regular season record) all year and have the talent and are well coached by Howard (White)," he said.

The top-seeded Vikings got all they could handle from fourth-seeded Trumbull, which led 36-30 at the half. At this point, White handed the keys over to Jeremiah Livingston.

The FCIAC Player of the Year, Livingston had for him a pedestrian first half, but the 6-foot senior guard finished the game with 38 points, including a 19-for-24 performance from the foul line.

“Jeremiah took over,” Bray said. He’s quick and shifty and made his free throws.”

Westhill will play Norwalk High, which defeated Wilton High 69-55 in the first game of the doubleheader, on Friday with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. at Warde.

Trumbull received a stellar performance from senior guard Eddie McElroy, who finished with 29 points, 14 of them coming in the second quarter when the Eagles turned a 19-18 deficit into a six-point halftime advantage.

“We took a good punch and showed how good we are,” Bray said of his team’s comeback from an early eight-point deficit. “We tried to attack the zone and look for the kick out and Eddie had a great night shooting (9-for-15 from the floor)."

Trumbull still led, 48-44, after three quarters, with Brandon Owen showing off his passing skills and Chris Lyons pitching in on the boards, but Livingston previewed what was to come when he hit on 11 of 14 shots from the foul line in the period.

“I don’t think we played well coming out for the third quarter,” Bray said. “We got cold and they made the run.”

Trumbull just couldn’t stop drives to the rim off the dribble, and Livingston ran the Eagles into their third timeout of the game with 5:30 left to play and Westhill leading 52-50.

After Livingston tallied on two layups, one after a steal to push the score to 56-50, Trumbull needed an answer.

Billy Brown, who finished with 14 points, seven of them in the first quarter when he kept Trumbull close, found a way to finish with the clock ticking inside 3:50.

Rashard Rodrigues (seven points) battled for a loose ball and put it in to make it 58-54. Brown got back quickly to block Livingston’s shot on a run out at the two-minute mark.

Trumbull missed a 3-point shot, before Ben McCullough (nine points) scored on two free throws and added a basket from the block.

Livingston, however, made six straight free throws during this stretch and Westhill had a 64-58 lead with 45.8 left.

Coming out of a Trumbull timeout, Livingston got the ball and made 3-of-4 free throws to offset McElroy's seventh 3-pointer.

“I’m proud of my kids, the way they battled in this great environment,” Bray said.