TRUMBULL — There was a reason why the Trumbull boys basketball team became the last remaining unbeaten team in conference play on Friday night, following a 62-51 win at home over Danbury.
In a micro sense, one could point to the number of missed baskets in the paint by the Hatters, considered by most the preseason favorite in the FCIAC. There was the inability to tap into their transition game or get many touches inside for center Marcus Fox, which was due in large part to the Eagles’ active 2-3 zone and having the size to bang with Fox. A lack of a perimeter game never allowed the defense to loosen.
But from a macro standpoint, one just needed to look at the Trumbull side of the scorebook at the end of the night. John Pfohl 11 points. John McElroy 11 points. Chris Lyons 10 points. Jack Moore 8 points. Eddie Giovannini 8 points.
Who exactly is the focus of an opposing defense when there are players of equal offensive worth, each capable of taking over on a particular night?
“I think we always know our roles,” Moore said for the reason the Eagles are 9-1 overall and 6-0 in league play at the season’s midway point. “Like we don’t need a 30 point scorer every night. Everyone just needs to get like 10 points and we will be fine. There’s not one shutdown player to focus on. We don’t rely on one person every night out.”
When the Hatters (8-1, 5-1) are at their best, they are beating the opposition downcourt and getting uncontested layups, which they were able to do for brief stretches in the first half and the start of the third quarter, when three quick inside baskets fueled an 11-2 run that gave them a 31-28 lead.
Trumbull chipped away with a combination of drives to the basket and 3-point shots to take a 39-35 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Eagles had problems finishing wins last week, but not on this night. Ahead, 47-41, Moore hit a 3, Lyons scored off of a second straight putback try and McElroy scored on a layup. Danbury got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We had to try and minimize the transition stuff they are so good at,” Trumbull coach Buddy Bray said. “They are very quick up the floor. Try to contest as much as possible. Take care against their pressure.”
Asked, despite the teams’ shared status coming into the night, if they felt this was a measuring stick game, Bray and his players took different views.
“We don’t really pay too much attention,” Bray said. “That’s a good team. They are going to win a lot of games. Maybe they had a little bit of an off night shooting the basketball. We did a good job in the zone and rebounding we felt like we had to win the battle.”
Moore, however, made it seem as if the players are paying at least a little attention.
“This just boosts it,” he said of the Eagles’ confidence level. “We know we are a great team and we know that Danbury is a great team so just go at them. This proves how much this year we have a chance of winning it.”
Moore is right about that. The Hatters are talented, but the gap between the top 10 to 12 teams keeps narrowing as the season plays out. If the playoffs had started Friday night, based on the standings lower seeds would have been on nearly equal footing.
Scott Nesbitt led Danbury with 20 points while Fox added 12, mostly off his work on the boards.
Danbury coach Casey Bock was not pleased with the performance but was not about to make it about anything more than an off night.
“Offensively, we didn’t finish layups, we didn’t finish plays,” Bock said. “A couple of times we missed a layup and then they would come down and hit a 3. That’s a 5-point swing. They have some size and they disrupted us a little bit. I thought they did a good job of controlling the game. When they needed a shot they hit a big shot. We have weaknesses and we just have to keep getting better.”
That speech would have been appropriate in the locker room of every league contender. Because right now it is looking even more like there are a number of teams with the chance to catch fire for three nights during a week late next month to take home a trophy.