TRUMBULL — It was a slow start two weeks ago that led to his team’s lone blemish this season, and Trumbull girls basketball coach Steve Tobitsch is determined to not let his players forget it.
The Eagles were reminded once again before tonight’s game against streaking Wilton of the one-point loss to Ridgefield back on Jan. 20. Based on today’s result, the team is likely to keep hearing about it right up until season’s end.
Trumbull scored the game’s first five points while racing out to a double-digit first-quarter lead and never looked back. The 59-42 victory ended Wilton’s eight-game winning streak.
“I reminded them that they came out flat against Ridgefield,” Tobitsch said after the defending FCIAC champion and Class LL runner-up Eagles won their fourth straight to improve to 16-1 over all and 12-1 in the FCIAC. “We can’t let that happen again.”
Senior co-captain Julie Keckler clearly listened to her coach and was the biggest reason the Eagles came out strong. Keckler had 10 first-quarter points as Trumbull raced to a 14-4 lead.
“We really came out fired up and attacked the basket,” said Keckler, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. “We had a fire under us tonight.”
Keckler has done her best to keep the Eagles on top this year despite losing two All-FCIAC players — Claudia Tucci and Taylor Brown — to graduation.
“Julie is our leader,” Tobitsch said. “She can score but she feeds the other girls, too. We go as she goes. We’re lucky to have her.”
Trumbull dominated inside against the Warriors (13-4, 10-3) and finished the game 24 for 45 from the field (53 percent) while holding Wilton to 13 for 45 shooting (29 percent). Before going on an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, the Warriors trailed, 53-32.
“I didn’t do a good enough job getting the girls ready,” Wilton coach Rob Coloney said. “(Trumbull) sure looked ready. To be honest with you, after the first quarter when all we had were four free throws (to go with 0 for 12 shooting), I was pleased we were only down nine.”
Wilton, however, never got closer than eight. Sparked by freshman standout Allie Palmeiri, who led the Eagles with 17 points, Trumbull went on a 17-6 run starting late in the third quarter to put the game away.
Besides coming out strong, the Eagles are also listening to their coach about his year-long game plan.
“I’ve told them all season that we are building for February,” Tobitsch said. “We’ve had a good season but I told that we have to be better in February, when the schedule gets tougher.”
The Eagles are 1-0 in February with Fairfield Warde looming next. Then comes Norwalk, another 12-1 team, which the Eagles face next Monday. Then comes the FCIAC Tournament.
“We’re physically ready for February,” Keckler said. “And this one tonight was really good for our confidence.”
Wilton, meanwhile, is still alive for a top two seed and is also in a four-team battle with Stamford, Warde and Staples for the 3-6 seeds. How today’s loss affects the Warriors’ confidence remains to be seen as the stretch run begins.
Coloney, however, isn’t worried.
“The final score means nothing,” he said. “I’m not worried about our confidence. We just won eight in a row. We’re 13-4. We’re pretty confident.”
Emily Tuin led Wilton with 15 points while Claire Gulbin added 12 and Elizabeth Breslin had 11.
NOTES: Trumbull outrebounded Wilton 30-21 and committed 14 turnovers compared to Wilton’s 10. … Trumbull is gunning for its third FCIAC championship in seven years while Wilton, the runner-up in 2014, hasn’t won the FCIAC since 1989. … Prior to Wilton’s eight-game winning streak, the Warriors had lost three out of four. … Trumbull’s other freshman, Cassi Barbato, had 7 points and 5 rebounds.