TRUMBULL — Possessing numerous players who can effectively shoot from the perimeter, Trumbull’s girls basketball team is a potent offensive squad, but its defensive capabilities certainly should not be overlooked.
Entering today’s FCIAC Tournament quarterfinal round game against visiting Stamford, the Eagles had limited their opponents to less than 40 points on seven of their previous eight matchups. They went out and added another defensive gem to their ledger.
Third-seeded Trumbull held sixth-seeded Stamford scoreless in the first quarter on its way to cruising to a convincing 55-27 win, a triumph that advanced it to the FCIAC semifinals.
Winners of eight straight games, the Eagles will host No. 7 Danbury in Wednesday’s semifinals at 5. The Hatters earned a berth in the conference’s final four by eliminating second-seeded Staples, 47-30.
“We had an unbelievable start to this game,” Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch said. “Our team was really focused on what we wanted to do in our game plan today. The defensive intensity our team had set the tone for everything else.”
Trumbull senior Cassi Barbato, who recently reached the 1,000 career-point plateau, led all scorers with 14 points. Junior Emma Gentry added 13 points, along with strong defensive play, while juniors Emi Roberto and Sarah Stolze scored eight points apiece.
Stamford (9-5) scored its first point of the game with 6:18 left in the second quarter and by that time it trailed, 19-1.
“The team performance was great this game, we came out with a lot of intensity and we matched their energy,” said Barbato, who made two 3-pointers. “Stamford came out with a lot of energy and they were cheering a lot, but we didn’t let that faze us and we played really good defense and we just had a great team performance.”
The Eagles held leads of 15-0 after the first quarter and 31-10 at halftime. Sophomore Sam Albert scored 10 points for the Black Knights, who found it difficult to get into an offensive rhythm against Trumbull’s extended man-to-man defense.
“I give a lot of credit to their defense, they played great defense as a team,” said Stamford coach Diane Burns, whose squad had only one senior on its roster. “If we had couple of more shots fall, maybe it changes the momentum for us. Especially with a young team, it is tough to fight through that.”
The game’s first points weren’t scored until Roberto converted a layup with 4:37 remaining in the opening quarter, but Trumbull got on track offensively thereafter. Roberto made another layup, Barbato swished two foul shots, senior Amanda Ruchalski scored off a strong drive to the basket and Gentry tallied back-to-back baskets, putting the Eagles on top, 13-0.
Roberto’s sixth point of the first quarter capped Trumbull’s 15-0 first quarter run.
“We just played our game, I don’t think we realized we were up by that much,” Roberto said. “We just kept hyping each other up and we didn’t quit.”
Gentry’s short pull-up jumper and putback off her own missed shot stretched Trumbull’s advantage to 27-7 late in the second quarter. A forward, Gentry scored nine of her 13 points in the opening half, while Stolze had all eight of her points during the first two quarters.
“For this team, we focused on driving to the basket more and kicking it out,” Gentry said. “We knew they were going to be a tough team to play, but together we all passed the ball around well, found the open person and made good passes.”
Aviluz Vargas was the lone senior on Stamford’s young squad.
“These kids are great, it was great to help lead them and I looked forward to going to the gym with them every day,” Vargas said. “I’ll remember the girls and my team and I’ll be cheering for them next year.”
Stamford defeated Bassick in the tournament’s opening round.
“I’m super proud of this team, because they were definitely dealing with a lot of different things,” Burns said. “We had a late start, we had a quarantine situation, we have a lot of young players, with only one senior and they all handled it very well.”
Trumbull posted a 62-43 win against Danbury, its next opponent, this past Monday.
“We’ve been practicing all year for this, because obviously states is not happening, so this is a big deal for us,” Roberto said. As a team this is what we want, we want to get to the finals, but we must take it one game at a time.”
Added Barbato: “It’s our only playoffs this season and any game could be our last game, so we want to make the most out of it.”