TRUMBULL — It was a perfect storm for Trumbull when it knocked No. 10 Staples from the ranks of the unbeaten, 71-59, in an FCIAC boys basketball game on Friday night.
Trumbull improved to 6-2, 3-1 in the FCIAC. Staples is 8-1, 4-1 FCIAC.
Coach Buddy Bray couldn’t have game planned a better start. His Eagles scored on 8 of 9 possessions, limited the Wreckers to no points on nine trips down the court, and jumped out to an 18-0 advantage.
“Certainly being at home you want to get off to a good start,” Bray said. “Their point guard was out (Jake Thaw), tough injury. Staples is a well-coached team. Colin (Devine) does a good job. We knew it was going to be tough. They are ranked No. 10 in the state for a reason. They have a couple of good shooters and we tried to prepare. We had the bye this week. We were rested.”
“As a coach you are never happy with a loss,” Devine said. “The start that Trumbull had was too big to overcome. I’m proud of the effort and the execution in the second half. The kids showed a lot of fight. I think it took the first four minutes for us to figure out how to play without Jake. But once we figured out how to trust each other and make the right reads, we played a good game.”
The always steady, and sometimes spectacular play of Trumbull point guard Quentar Taylor, the quick hands on defense by Mileeq Green, the rebounding and defense inside by Andrew Cutter, and the smart play from Connor Johnston led the Eagles to the big lead.
In the frame, Green had three steals, which the junior guard turned into six points. Quentar had a 3-pointer and an assist, Cutter three rebounds and a block and Johnston had six points including the game’s first two baskets.
Benny Feuer’s free throw ended the scoreless skid for Staples with 3:05 remaining in the first quarter. Trumbull led 20-4 after one.
“It is a tough environment,” Devine said. “Give coach Bray credit, they punched us and it took us a little while to respond.
Basketball is a game of style and skill. It is also is a game that leaves room for power and aggression. Staples used the latter to claw back into the game.
The Wreckers began to attack the basket. The positives were two-fold: points for the Wreckers and foul trouble for the Eagles. Staples went inside, with A.J. Konstanty scoring five points, and then outside to Lucas Basich, who drained a trio of 3-pointers in the stanza.
Jake Gruttadauria made three baskets and Quentar hit two 3s. The senior also rebounded a miss and delivered a highlight-reel worthy one-bounce pass that went the length of the court for a Green layup.
The Eagles led 37-21 at the half, but Green and Quentar were quickly whistled for their third fouls to open the third quarter. Cutter had three on him before intermission.
“We had to play our way through some serious foul trouble all night long,” Bray said. “That is a credit to them. They put the basketball on the floor, they look for each other, they play together. That caused some issues with our rotation.”
Derek Sales second straight Staples’ basket, a hustle put back of a missed transition shot, cut the deficit to 39-30 three minutes into the third.
But Green was steadying presence for Trumbull the rest of the stanza. He made all four of his free throws, and attacked the rim for a hoop. Quentar split two defenders and dished off to Cutter for a basket to rebuild the margin to 46-32. Basich’s fourth of six treys brought it back to 48-38 with one period to play.
Basich’s 3-pointer made it a nine-point game with five minutes left, but Johnny McCain hit two 3-pointers both off assists from Gruttadauria and the Eagles maintained the double digit lead the rest of the way.
Green finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Quentar 12 points and 5 assists, and Cutter six rebounds and a pair of blocks to go with six points. McCain had 15 points and Gruttadauria 12.
Basich and Konstanty each scored 21 points for the Wreckers.
“We had four guys in double figues,” Bray said. “Q (Quentar) shot it pretty well tonight, some long 3-pointers. We got some nice contributions from Jake (Gruttadadauria) and Johnny (McCain) off the bench. Mileeq (Green) was solid all night. He made his free throws, gets the rebounds and makes all the hustle plays. Connor Johnston is only a sophomore, playing some big minutes and producing.
“They had to work themselves through some things without (Thaw). When they get him back they are going to be at the top of the FCIAC all the way through.”
Thaw is averaging 20 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. The 6-1 senior guard rolled an ankle in last Tuesday’s win over Norwalk and is expected back later next week.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Tough to take Trumbull’s Mileeq Green and his 18 points and numerous steals out of the conversation, but Quentar Taylor was sensational. His ability to deliver passes with either hand to all areas of the court was difficult to defend and wonderful to watch.
“They are missing their heart over there (Jake Thaw) tonight. He is the guy they run everything through. He makes number 23 (Basich) better, he makes every one better. He was having a heckuva season and people were talking about him for player of the year.” — Trumbull coach Buddy Bray