TRUMBULL — Trumbull coach Buddy Bray engaged in a little basketball chess tonight: giving up a lot on the offensive end from his top scorer, J.J. Pfohl, who was assigned to guard Conor Harkins, the star guard from Greenwich who leads the FCIAC in scoring.
The move was predicated on the Eagles finding offense from alternative sources. Timmond Williams and Jack Lynch then went out and made their coach look pretty intelligent.
Williams, a sophomore, scored 24 points and Lynch added 14 — 12 in the first half — as the Eagles jumped out to a 15-point lead early in the second quarter and survived some sloppy play late for a 66-59 win.
“I knew J.J. could get the job done and me and Jack could set up the offense,” Williams said. “It just happened. I was feeling it in warmups and I just shot the ball, shot when I was open and I just made them. But it was defense. Defense wins games for us. We had to stop (Harkins), he’s been having big games and we came up with the win.”
Harkins, who came into the game 20 points shy of 1,000, finished with 16, but half of them came in the final 2 1/2 minutes.
“They have probably the best shooter in the league and J.J. sacrificed his offense tonight,” Bray said. “I’m very proud of him. He took one for the team tonight. We needed scoring but he was like, Coach, if you want me to guard him I’ll guard him. He’s exhausted. It definitely took away from his offense but he’s a leader. He wanted to win the game.”
Johnny McElroy added 12 points and Pfohl 10 — he had just one field goal and made six free throws in the final quarter — for the Eagles (12-1, 8-1), who now have a half-game lead for best record in the league pending the result of Wilton’s game tomorrow at Ridgefield.
“Trumbull was fantastic,” Greenwich coach Patrick Heaton said. “They played with a different energy at the beginning of the game. We knew they were going to try and take Conor away. We needed other guys to step up and we did that early. We got into a lull midway through the first quarter and most of the second quarter and I thought they just outplayed us.”
Greenwich (7-7, 6-4) held its final lead at 11-9 on a basket by Robert Clark, who scored 16 points, with 3:50 left in the opening quarter. Trumbull answered with a 13-0 run and played with a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Five different players scored for the Eagles during that stretch.
“We can’t put ourselves into that kind of a hole against a good team,” Heaton said.
Trumbull finds itself in a similar position to a year ago: carrying the label of preseason sleeper and piling up wins with good defense and a penchant for pulling out close games.
“They don’t get us,” Williams said. “They don’t respect us. We’re just going to keep winning games and hopefully they realize.”
Bray has been high on Williams since the start of the season, seeing him as the kind of talent who can lift his team to a higher plane. So far Williams has lived up to his coach’s hopes.
“He wants to be good and he expects the ball to go down,” Bray said. “He has a lot of confidence and we don’t treat him like a sophomore.”
Bray was less satisfied with his team’s performance down the stretch. He realizes the Eagles’ margin for error is not big enough to overcome long stretches of ineffective play.
“We’re not happy the way that last quarter and a half went,” Bray said. “We didn’t really do a good job of executing with the lead and not playing to the score. We didn’t do that for two or three trips at a time. We have a lot of work to do. There’s a lot we can learn from the last nine or 10 minutes of the basketball game. I don’t think we played up to our abilities there. We got sloppy and stopped guarding. That part of it we will work on in practice tomorrow.”