TRUMBULL — If tonight’s FCIAC boys basketball showdown between Trumbull and Staples had been an old-school heavyweight boxing match, it likely would have been a first-round TKO.
The host Eagles scored the first 18 points of the game to rock the Wreckers, who rallied to close to within single digits twice in the final 10 minutes.
In the end, however, Trumbull became the first team to beat Staples this season, posting a 71-59 victory.
The Eagles improved to 6-2 while the Wreckers, playing without leading scorer Jake Thaw, who is injured, slipped to 8-1.
“Playing at home, you want to come out and get off to that good start and it was nice to see,” Trumbull coach Buddy Bray said. “We knocked down some shots and we had a nice tempo on defense.”
Trumbull’s start — fueled by six points each from Mileeq Green and Connor Johnston — forced Staples coach Colin Devine to burn two timeouts in the first 3:31 of the game, to no avail.
After Quentar Taylor drained a 3-pointer, and 20 seconds later set up Johnston for a fast-break layup, the Eagles led by an 18-0 score.
“We’re missing our best player,” Devine said. “He’s 20 points, eight assists, four rebounds. He’s our leader. It took us a while to figure out to play without him.”
Benny Feuer finally got Staples on the board with two foul shots with 3:03 to play before scoring the Wreckers’ first field goal 21 seconds later.
Still, the Trumbull lead got to as big as 37-15 in the second quarter.
“It took us about four minutes to learn how to play without Thaw,” Devine said. “Once we figured out how to trust each other and make the right reads, I thought we played a pretty good game.”
Green finished the game with 18 points for Trumbull, including a perfect 8-for-8 effort from the foul line. Johnny McCain added 15 — 12 of which came in the fourth quarter — while Taylor and Jake Gruttadauria had 12 points each.
AJ Konstanty and Lucas Basich led Staples with 21 points each.
Coming out for the second half, Bray reminded his team the game was far from over.
“They’re a good team, minus their point guard, and I knew they’d be a little out of sync,” Bray said. “But credit Colin. He got them going again. I expected them not to go away.”
A 9-2 run to open the second half got the Wreckers to within nine at 39-30, and a 6-0 spurt later in the third quarter cut the lead to eight at 46-38.
Heading into the final stanza, Trumbull had a 10-point lead.
McCain opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-point baskets to push the lead back to 54-39.
When the Wreckers later got the deficit back to 10 at 59-49 midway through the quarter, he drained a third trifecta to stop the momentum cold.
“It just came down to my teammates,” McCain said. “They found me in the right spots and I knocked them down. It got us going again and got the crowd going again.”
The Eagles made eight of 10 foul shots down the stretch to ice the victory.
“As a coach, you’re never happy with a loss,” Devine said. “I think the start Trumbull had was just too much to overcome. But I’m proud of the effort and execution in the second half. The kids showed a lot of fight.”
The Wreckers’ coach would not disclose the nature of Thaw’s injury but did say the senior guard is considered “day to day.”
Trumbull hosts Stamford on Tuesday, while Staples is at Fairfield Warde.