STAMFORD — Zach Smith is aware taking the kind of sizable step the Stamford boys basketball team would need to win the FCIAC boys basketball title is unusual.
The Black Knights were the seventh seed a year ago and lost in the first round of the conference tournament. There is usually an intermediate step, and that is what Smith, their coach, was talking about tonight following an 84-70 loss to Trumbull.
“We’re trying to get to where they were the last two years,” said Smith, referring to the Eagles. “I think we will get there.”
Trumbull made the leap to the title game last February before losing to Danbury.
Smith, of course, would like to take the fast track to the penthouse in one stop and win the championship. It is a realistic goal. But that fast track certainly appeared to be a long one tonight.
It is going to take a considerable effort to thwart the Eagles on the quest for their first league title since 1983. They have everything. A star in Timmond Williams, who tonight scored a career-high 39 points and added 11 rebounds. A do-it-all workman in Chris Brown, who finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds. There is size up front, speed in the backcourt, talent on the bench, and a new-look, up-tempo style not usually associated with the guys in the black and gold.
“It took Coach Bray a good long summer to decide how we were going to push the basketball,” said Trumbull coach Buddy Bray, using the third person for sarcasm. “I came to terms with it and I liked the way the kids were on the break, pushing the ball. Sharing it. Eighty-four points; that’s a lot for Trumbull High. I’m happy with the win, happy for the kids.”
The Eagles (2-0) certainly enjoyed the style of play, and more so were quite good at it, with Brown and point guard Quentar Taylor, though saddled with foul trouble, making the transition passes that led to layups.
“When we play the fast teams we can play fast too,” Williams said. “We get to go up and down and show what we can do. We wanted to come out and make a statement early and I think we did that today.”
Trumbull and Stamford were ranked in the preseason top three by a number of coaches. And the Black Knights played to a near standoff for almost three quarters. Each team came out of first-half timeouts with long runs, each used speed to make up deficits.
Trumbull had a 56-55 lead with just over a minute left in the third quarter. Bray had switched to a 3-2 zone to deny Stamford’s army of talented guards a pathway to the basket.
The Eagles closed the quarter with an 11-2 run that was the appetizer to what ended up being a 23-6 spurt and 18-point lead.
“Credit Stamford, they came out and threw the first punch,” Bray said. “Some of the passing on the break and adjusting to the speed of the game…they are very, very quick. I think it took the kids a full quarter to adjust to the speed of the game. Once we got our confidence and started getting some shots we settled down a little bit.”
Josh Thervil scored 20 to lead the Black Knights (1-1). Jay Jaudon added 13 and Tyheim Burgess added 10.
Stamford proved they were ready to go a long way with the league favorite but still has a margin to make up.
“Credit them, they are very good,” Smith said. “They have experience obviously and I thought that was the difference in the game. Our lack of experience in a lot of ways. I talked to the kids about being mentally tough. Not letting your offensive possessions lead to bad defensive possessions, and I thought that’s what happened.”
It is just one night and there is a long way to go before the contenders and pretenders start shaking out. The Black Knights will learn more following the difficult road trip on Friday to Ridgefield.
Trumbull knows what is needed to make the final step. Stamford is in the process of discovering how to take at least the next step.
“I saw a lot of positive signs from us,” Smith said. “The things that hurt us are things I’m aware of. We just have to get better and learn from our mistakes.”