UNCASVILLE — The Trumbull girls basketball team’s run at a Class LL championship ran out of steam in the fourth quarter of tonight’s final against New London.
The Eagles, playing on the last night of the season in part because they have found ways to win even when some aspect of their game was off, could not get any traction, yet still trailed by just one point heading into the final period.
But Trumbull could not overcome a scoreless spell that lasted just over eight minutes. New London was held to just eight points in that stretch, but they were not enough to carry it to a 42-36 win.
Trumbull, the No. 1 seed, finished with an FCIAC title and a 26-2 record.
“We were battling some foul trouble all night and then we had some difficulties scoring in the halfcourt,” Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch said. “I thought our transition offense was pretty good. We did a good job pushing it.”
Trumbull never led in the game and kept the margin close throughout because of an unyielding effort on the defensive end. The Eagles tied the game at 23-23 early in the third quarter on a steal and basket by Julie Keckler.
The Whalers answered with five straight points from India Pagan, who finished with a game-high 18.
Trumbull had the ball with the chance to take a lead three times in the quarter but was unable to capitalize. Tobitsch searched for the right combination, especially after leading scorer Claudia Tucci picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.
“We struggled to get good looks at the hoop in the fourth quarter,” Tobitsch said. “Midway through the quarter we went deeper on the bench and brought in kids to speed up the game a little bit. We felt we had to change the pace and the tone before it got too late.”
Keckler finished with 12 points for the Eagles. Aisling Maguire added 8. But Tucci and Taylor Brown, their second leading scorer, were held to just a combined 10 points.
“I thought we played really well on the defensive side,” Tobitsch said. “New London really took us out of a lot of things we tried or hoped to do.”
The Eagles’ success this season was fashioned not so much by having far superior talent, but their ability to limit mistakes, control tempo and play in a unified manner that opponents were unable to match.
Many of those qualities were on display tonight, but the Whalers (23-2) proved their equal.
It was a defensive battle: the Eagles made just 30 percent of their shots, while New London converted just 36 percent. The Whalers had 22 turnovers; Trumbull 21.
“I was proud of our pressure and obviously New London’s ball pressure took us out of a lot of the things we wanted to do,” Tobitsch said. “New London’s a fantastic team.”
In the days ahead, the Eagles will come to terms with the depth of their accomplishments.
“We went toe to toe with the best in the state of Connecticut in this LL,” Tobitsch said. “We went through Fairfield Warde, NFA, Mercy and took New London to a six-point game. It hurts right now to lose but to be state LL runners-up, I think it says something about this team and how good they are.”