Only the faces and roles now change for the Trumbull girls basketball team. Despite losing their top scorer and three starters, the Eagles, the two-time defending league champions, are 12-0 and in first place in the FCIAC, a half game ahead of Norwalk, which is also unbeaten.
There are as many freshmen as seniors in the eight-player rotation, the two players opponents most worry about are sophomores and defense remains the emphasis.
“Since we’ve lost a lot of great players over the years I don’t think people thought we’d be as successful, but we all came together really well,” said Meghan Lesko, a three-sport captain. “Our chemistry really came together and we’ve been able to win some very good games.”
There is a 65-60 road victory over Wilbur Cross. It demonstrated the Eagles can win playing up-tempo, though they usually dictate the pace. Ridgefield scored 44 points against them and New Canaan yesterday became the third team to reach 40.
Defense has always been the stamp of Trumbull’s coach, Steve Tobitsch.
“Coach Tobitsch stresses defense first and we know if we are a strong defensive team we will get the ball and have more opportunities to score,” Lesko said. “As a team we’re all in on that mentality. It is what we need to do to win.”
Prior to last night’s game, the Eagles held Staples and Fairfield Ludlowe, two playoff contenders, to an average of 29 points in consecutive wins.
“Last night’s game was good,” Tobitsch said about the Ludlowe game. “We played with a really good defensive intensity. For much of the year we’ve played with a great offensive intensity but last night we played with a really good defensive intensity against a good Ludlowe team.”
The Eagles have been led on offense by Allie Palmieri and Cassi Barbato, the sophomores who have befuddled defenses trying to account for them.
“Cassi and Allie are terrific,” Tobitsch said. “It is hard to defend both of them. There is a good chance one is going to have a good night and the other one might be in a different supporting role. More so our upperclassmen have helped guide them along. We are looking to get them shots and you can’t have five kids looking to shoot the basketball. We’ve definitely improved our shot selection. Our supporting cast is strong too.”
Barbato has been a key contributor to the school’s softball team, while Palmieri is a gym rat.
“Cassi has improved very much so with the mental side of the game,” Tobitsch said. “She’s a very smart player, she understands the game on a cerebral level and everyone knows Cassi as a softball player and a catcher. She’s a terrific basketball player. Her understanding as a guard on where the ball should go, when to shoot the ball, trying to get the next pass.
“This is the sport Allie loves. She’s a basketball player, she plays the sport all year round. She puts the time and effort and energy into it probably more than anyone else on our roster. Allie improved in the offseason getting the ball to the basket and not just being a perimeter jump shooter. Of course you want her shooting the basketball but you want her to make a conscious effort of getting the ball to the hoop.”
Somewhat overshadowed but equally important to the Eagles’ success are the three other starters. Lesko and Kelly O’Leary are returning starters, while Krystina Schueler has made an impact inside. Three freshmen contribute off the bench.
“Our senior captains have done a great job helping some of our young kids along,” Tobitsch said. “I feel like we’ve made some good strides but to be honest I think this team has a lot more growth in them and I don’t think we’re anywhere near our maximum potential, which is a good thing.”