TRUMBULL — As the Trumbull girls basketball team can attest to, the 3-point shot can be a team’s best friend when it is consistently converted.
From the top of the key, the wing, the corner — you name it — the Eagles’ made 3-pointers from all areas of the court during today’s showdown against neighborhood rival St. Joseph.
Shooting effectively from beyond the arc throughout, Trumbull totaled 10 3-pointers in registering a well-earned 49-39 victory over host St. Joseph.
Senior Cassi Barbato led the Eagles’ balanced scoring effort, recording 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. Emma Gentry, a junior forward/guard, added 12 points, while junior Emi Roberto tallied nine point, all off shots from beyond the arc for Trumbull (3-1).
The Eagles have won three straight games since losing their season-opener to Ridgefield.
“Against Ridgefield that was a tough game, but having those tough experiences really helps us in these certain situations and I think we’ve gotten better,” said Gentry, who swished two 3-pointers.
Trumbull, which held a 25-18 halftime lead after trailing 9-8 following the first quarter, was also sparked by its impressive defensive effort. Playing mostly man-to-man defense, with timely traps mixed in, the Eagles neutralized the Cadets’ size advantage.
“Our goal is to keep them under 40 for the game and we achieved it,” Gentry said. “If you don’t have good defense, you don’t win games.”
St. Joseph (3-1), which rolled to victories in its first three games, was paced by eight points from junior center Kirsten Rodriguez. The Cadets wore pink uniforms to signify the team’s annual fundraising game against Trumbull, benefiting the American Cancer Society. Cadets coach Chris Lindwall noted the teams are raising funds for a family in Trumbull experiencing pediatric cancer.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, today’s game had a different feel to it than the previous encounters between the squads, as only a small group of fans were allowed to attend.
“This game is usually at Fairfield University in front of 2,000 people,” Lindwall said. “Unfortunately, because of COVID, we miss the fans, we miss the parents, we miss the student body.”
Still, both the Eagles and Cadets displayed plenty of intensity throughout.
“It’s a big game, we are usually with all the fans, so it was kind of different,” said St. Joseph junior forward Dennaye Hinds, who had five points. “But we had a lot of energy.”
Trumbull seized the lead for good by outscoring St. Joseph, 17-9, in the second quarter. A layup from senior Julia Lindwall put the Eagles on top at 10-9 with a layup 33 seconds into the second quarter. Gentry made a jump shot from the left corner and after Rodriguez scored in the low post, Roberto swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving the Eagles a 15-11 edge with 4:17 to go in the second quarter.
Roberto banked in a 3-point shot from the top of the key and junior Sarah Stolze scored off a Roberto pass, extending Trumbull’s lead to 22-13 late in the quarter. The opening half saw Trumbull make five 3-pointers against St. Joseph, which played both a man-to-man and zone defense.
“We try to focus on drive and kick and getting it to everyone, we really want to make that extra pass,” Barbato said of the team’s ball movement. “I think we executed that well this game, everyone was sharing the ball, everyone scored, everyone was getting touches and it was such a great team win.”
Added Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch: “We were lucky some of our 3-point shots fell tonight, and I thought we probably could have hit a few more, but it’s something that we can continue to work on going down the home stretch.”
The Eagles headed into the fourth quarter with a 36-23 lead, thanks to Stolze, who scored six points during the the third quarter. Trumbull led by as many as 18 at 44-26 after Lindwall hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 6:08 remaining. St. Joseph cut into Trumbull’s lead in the final minutes. Juniors Kate Rudini, Erika Stephens and Isabelle Casucci each had six points in the loss.
“Our defense was really good, we were just a little bit scrambled and I think that has to do with our snow days and not being able to practice,” Rudini said. “We got the ball into the post, got a lot a lot of rebounds and a lot of steals.”
Said Hinds: “Our energy will be there next time and we’re going to be better. Our team has a good connection on and off the court.”
It was an especially emotional game for the Cadets’ coach, who went up against his daughter Julia.
“It’s the hardest thing I do,” Lindwall said of coaching against his daughter’s squad. “This was a sad one, because it could be the last one. It’s her senior year and I’m just glad that we are having a season.”
Tobitsch left the game pleased with his team’s execution defensively.
“Our girls were a little bit undersized, but they did a good job of playing around the post,” he said. “They played good, solid defense and there was a lot of help ‘D.’
Added Barbato: “Our girls came over from the weak side and it was, over all, great team defense. On offense, especially this game, we wanted to be on for the 3-pointers, so we focused on driving and kicking out and hitting those 3s.”
St. Joseph, which last beat Trumbull in 2014, hosts Westhill on Monday, while the Eagles host Darien.
“We’ve played four games, we’re 3-1 and I’m very happy with where we’re at,” Lindwall said of the Cadets. “We’re going to learn from this game.”
Tobitsch knows the ceiling is high for his squad.
“If we can continue to work hard, we can maximize some of the potential we have,” he said. “I’m excited to see what kind of team we will be when the FCIAC Tournament comes around.”