WESTPORT — A stifling defense that yielded few open shots.
Good court awareness that created easy looks on offense.
A complementary freshman who is already exceeding high expectations.
Consider the above a checklist behind the Trumbull girls basketball team’s decisive 53-30 win over Staples tonight in a game between teams unbeaten in conference play. About the only question was how to rank each attribute in order of importance.
“I thought this was the first time all year that we played like the Trumbull team that wears the Trumbull jersey,” Eagles coach Steve Tobitsch said. “Our full-court and half-court defense were really good, we were communicating really well. In the second half we executed and got shots that we wanted to get. It was a little helter-skelter in the first quarter but that was to be expected. Both teams are good teams. It was a great atmosphere.”
The Eagles (9-0, 6-0 FCIAC) remained the only undefeated team in the league, outscoring the Wreckers in the second quarter, 20-3, and not letting up the rest of the way.
“I thought we played really well,” said Julie Keckler. “Our defense was really tight. That’s our main goal. To hold teams to under 40.”
Keckler, one of the first options in half-court sets, finished with just 3 points and it didn’t make a difference; her playmaking was an important factor to the outcome.
“It doesn’t matter about points,” Keckler said. “We look ahead a lot, we do a lot of transition. I see Aisling a lot and we have that senior connection.”
Aisling Maguire led the Eagles with 14 points. Brady Lynch added 12, and she was as impressive with her entry passes from up top as she was on the finishing end inside.
Then there was Allie Palmieri, a freshman who plays with the poise of a senior. She also scored 12 points.
“They’re really starting to come together,” Tobitsch said. “I said all year that we will be a much better team at the end of the year than we were at the beginning. I know we have some wins right now and everyone is saying, yeah, yeah, yeah, but of all the wins this is the first time we played the way we should play.”
The Eagles graduated many of the players who were mainstays to last year’s FCIAC title and run to the championship game of the Class LL Tournament, but this team has many of its predecessor’s trademarks, most noticeably on the defensive end of the court.
“We were contesting,” Tobitsch said. “Communication on defense was great. They’re a very unselfish group. They’re a good group to coach. We have to keep going forward.”
It said something about the Eagles’ tenacity that on the few occasions Staples found uncontested shots, they often missed badly because players seemed to be anticipating pressure. No Wrecker player scored more than 6 points.
“When they stepped their defense up we started dribbling and putting our heads down,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “We forgot to play team basketball. That’s something that happens with teams inexperienced in a big game and they try to do it themselves.”
This was the Wreckers’ biggest contest in recent memory. A win over Wilton on Tuesday helped them enter tonight’s game with just one loss in nine games and none in six conference matches.
The Wreckers didn’t succumb to the pressure but were outplayed by a team that has been the most consistent in the FCIAC at the midseason mark.
“The lights were on and it was a great experience for us,” Fabian said. It’s a long season, it’s the middle of the year and the one good thing is we saw a lot of things we need to work on to improve. We’re not going to hang our heads. It’s one game, it doesn’t matter if we lose by 1 or 23. We’re going to try and keep becoming a better basketball team.”