WESTPORT — The Trumbull boys basketball team has a variety of plays set up for any time it has the ball in the final seconds looking for a game-winning shot. They are honed in practice and designed for whatever look is presented by a defense.
The ball almost always ends up in the hands of JJ Pfohl.
So it was not surprising when Pfohl, who has made the leap from supporting player a year ago to leading man, hit a baseline jumper at the buzzer tonight to give the Eagles a dramatic 52-20 win at Staples. With the Wreckers’ Sean Pritchett defending and Brendan Massoud coming out from the paint, Pfohl’s shot concluded a spectacular second half and lifted Trumbull to its eighth win in nine games.
“A lot of emotions going on,” said Pfohl, who scored all of his game-high 20 points in the second half. “We drew up a play and my teammates executed it perfectly. Set two fantastic screens and I was in the open. The first half I struggled, coach told me keep shooting, keep shooting. They had trust in me and it worked out in the second half. Sometimes when you’re feeling it, it just happens.”
Trumbull coach Buddy Bray said practices always end working on executing in such a situation and Pfohl concluded yesterday’s session in similar fashion.
“That was a much different look,” Bray said of a game situation. “The kid’s got the heart of a warrior. He’s been knocking them down all year.”
Staples (3-6, 1-4 FCIAC), which played with the lead for much of the night, led 50-47 after two free throws by Pritchett. Pfohl answered with a long 3-point shot to tie the game with 2:29 remaining.
“Pfohl just made a great shot down the stretch and that was even a bigger one,” Staples coach Colin Devine said.
After the Wreckers missed, Trumbull worked off the final minute waiting for one last play. Each coach explained his thinking.
“I felt the way we were struggling and the foul trouble, a minute to hold the ball and they’re in a flat 3-2, I just felt it has been a struggle all night, let’s try to win it right here,” Bray said. “It felt like the kind of night if they had the last possession they win tonight.”
Added Devine, “We thought that we couldn’t match up man to man so we figured we’d get one stop instead of trying to make two stops.”
Pfohl made all the drawings on the whiteboard moot. After struggling along with everyone else on the court in the first half, which ended with Staples holding a 19-17 lead, Pfohl hit three 3-pointers and scored 12 third-quarter points. He saved his two biggest shots for the end.
“It was a nice feeling,” Pfohl said. “Staples is always a nice rivalry the past couple of years. It is always nice to get a win over here.”
Johnny McElroy and Timmond Williams added 11 points each for Trumbull.
Staples, which was blown out three nights earlier at Wilton, played much better, especially on the defensive end. Offensively the Wreckers were carried by Justin Seideman (17 points), Max Sussman (14) and Pritchett (13). This is one of the few instances this year where a strong performance was not better rewarded.
“I thought our defense was very good against an FCIAC playoff team tonight and we came up just a little short,” Devine said. “We showed up, played great defense. We have to figure out a way to create a little more offense.”
Trumbull is reprising its role of a year ago, when despite modest preseason expectations it finished with the second-best record during the regular season and reached the FCIAC Tournament semifinals. Only unbeaten Wilton and Fairfield Warde are currently ahead in the standings.
Pfohl said in the end the outcome came down to replicating for a minute what it works on three days a week.
“We just played like we practice,” Pfohl said.
(Video and call by Cooper Boardman of the Staples Television Network)