MILFORD >> Trumbull’s magical season is going to end where every basketball team in Connecticut dreams of playing: Mohegan Sun Arena.
The top-seeded Eagles fought off fifth-seeded Mercy 45-38 in overtime at Jonathan Law High School advance to the Class LL state championship this weekend in Uncasville.
“I’m so proud,” Trumbull’s Taylor Brown said. “I really play with the best group of girls and I’m so happy.”
The Eagles, who were voted No. 1 in the GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 Poll before the postseason started, will be playing in their third state final. The last was 2002 when they lost to Norwich Free Academy. The lone girls basketball champions came in 1974.
“We’re in uncharted waters right now,” Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch said. “We’re going to ride our three seniors, we’re going to regroup and prepare for Saturday’s final the best we can and this is phenomenal.”
And the fight Trumbull had to endure wasn’t one-sided.
No. 5 Mercy, who trailed by as many as five with 10 seconds left in the third quarter, sent the game to overtime on Samantha Chapps’s 3-pointer with 9.7 remaining.
But it was OT where the Eagles sunk their talons into the Tigers.
After Chapps made two free throws to begin the extra period, Claudia Tucci, who scored 12 points, drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key. On Trumbull’s next possession she made two free throws to make it a three-point lead the Eagles wouldn’t relinquish.
“How many times can we get the ball to the basket and have it look like it’s in and spin out?” Mercy coach Tim Kohs said. “You have to get some breaks to beat a team like that.”
The Tigers were then compelled to put Trumbull on the free throw line, but Taylor Brown, Gianna Ghitsa and Brady-Ayn Lynch combined to make four of seven free throws to close out the win.
“I took a deep breath,” Brown said. “I was in that situation before, against Warde. I said I’m just going to relax, take my time and make them.”
— CT Sports Now (@CT_Sports_Now) March 14, 2017
Brown (13 points) got the Eagles going early with a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the first and then two on consecutive possessions in the second to give Trumbull a 19-14 lead and get the boisterous student section loud.
Mercy tied the game on an Alexia Leon 3-pointer with 4:12 left in the first half ro make it 22-all.
The Tigers hung tough and used a 10-4 run to start the fourth to take a 32-31 lead, with eight of the points coming from Bella Santoro.
Santoro led Mercy with 14 points.
Tucci and Brown made layups with time winding down in the fourth to give Trumbull a 35-32 lead, but Chapps sent the game to overtime where the Eagles outscored Mercy 10-3 to advance to their third state final in school history.
“It’s not easy to get to this point,” Kohs said. “In LL there are landmines everywhere. Loaded with good teams.”
Trumbull 45, Mercy 38
— Derek Turner (@DCT_Sports) March 14, 2017
Mercy: 8 9 5 13 3 — 38
Trumbull: 11 8 8 8 10 — 45
(at Jonathan Law High School)
Mercy (38) — Bella Santoro 4 5-5 14, Kameryn King 2 0-0 6, Samantha Chapps 1 5-6 8, Keri Kernigan 0 1-2 1, Megan DeVille 2 2-3 6, Lexi Leon 1 0-0 3, Nicole Ladas 0 0-0 0 — Total 10 13-16 38.
Kristen Pagliaro 0 1-2 1, Claudia Tucci 4 3-4 12, Asling Maguire 2 1-2 7, Julie Keckler 3 1-2 8, Victoria Ray 0 1-5 1, Brady Lynch 1 1-2 3, Taylor Brown 4 2-2 13 — Total 14 10-19 45.
3-point goals: Mercy 5 (King 2, Santoro, Chapps, Leon); Trumbull 7 (Brown 3, Maguire 2, Tucci, Keckler).
Fouled out: Mercy — Santoro; Trumbull — Keckler.
Team records: Mercy 20-4; Trumbull 26-1.