TRUMBULL — Chicken or the Egg? Which comes first?
The question posed by Trumbull High and Staples of Westport was similar in nature when the FCIAC contenders met in Trumbull on Thursday night.
Is it important when your offense is lacking to retain your defensive principles to stay in the game?
Or are those plans of action on defense the reason a team holds its opponent far below its scoring average?
“We had to grind it out on defense,” Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch said after his Eagles turned back the Wreckers, 36-25. “We had to tighten up our rotation to get those defensive stops.”
Trumbull improved to 10-0 overall and is 7-0 in the FCIAC.
Staples is now 6-4 and 4-3 in the conference.
“We had a big game with Trinity Catholic and the defense didn’t show up,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said of a 58-49 loss on Jan. 3. “We’ve been focusing on defense. We knew we’d need it against Trumbull, which is one of the top teams in the state.”
The Wreckers bounced back from that loss to the Crusaders with a 47-26 victory over Wilton on Monday. They were scoring at a 48.5 per game clip coming into the matchup with the high-powered Eagles (59 points per game).
Trumbull took an 8-6 lead into the second period. Neither team shot well. The Eagles were 2 for 15 from the floor; Staples was 1-10.
With the game tied at 11-all after the Wreckers’ Olivia Troy buried a three-pointer in the second quarter, Trumbull’s Allie Palmieri poked the ball free and turned the steal into a three-point play with 2:54 left in the half.
Krystina Schueler (13 points) forced a turnover that led to a Cassi Barbato three-pointer off a pass from Maeve Hampford and the Eagles had a 17-12 lead at the break.
The teams looked to get the offense right, not quick, in the third quarter.
Palmieri knocked home a jumper off a Kelly O’Leary feed after running the offense for one minute to open the period.
Staples’ Elle Fair countered with a basket and Nicole Holmes scored from the block off dribble penetration by Fair.
O’Leary found Barbato open on the wing in transition for another trey for the sophomore and a 22-16 lead.
Marley Lopez-Paul followed her own miss after a great entry pass from Isabella Didio and it was 22-20 at the one-minute mark of the third.
Hampford scored inside, with Palmieri getting the assist, and Trumbull took a 24-20 lead into the final quarter.
Staples’ Alva Norden tallied on a great drop-step to the basket to make it 24-22.
Down 27-22, the Wreckers ran a great give-and-go with Lopez-Paul getting the ball to a cutting Fair only to have the Eagles’ Meghan Lesko tip the ball out of bounds.
Instead of a layup and a one-possession game, Trumbull forced a missed shot and came back down court to score on back-to-back baskets by Schueler.
A senior forward, Schueler had five points in the opening frame and never let down from there.
She scored after a pass from O’Leary at the 3:26 mark and followed that up with a give-and-go basket against the Staples’ trap to take the score to 31-22.
Staples stayed close at 31-25 on Amanda Troelstra’s long-range jumper with 1:47 to play.
Staples had to foul four times to get Trumbull to the line with 1:17 left.
After a missed free throw, the Wreckers had a chance to cut the deficit to three but Schueler blocked an entry pass and was off to the races.
She scored on the breakaway, was fouled, and completed the three-point play for a 34-25 lead.
“Krystina is one of our seniors that we count on and she was especially good in that fourth quarter,” Tobitsch said. “Maeve Hampford and Sarah Stolze (nine rebounds) gave up great minutes off the bench when he had two players in foul trouble.
“Staples has a great program and we knew coming in it was going to be a battle. We need to improve in a lot of areas.”
TRUMBULL 36, STAPLES 25
Emma Gentry 0 0-0 0; Meghan Lesko 0 0-1 0; Bella McCain 0 0-0 0; Emi Roberto 0 0-0 0; Maeve Hampford 1 0-2 2; Kelly O’Leary 1 0-1 3; Krystina Schueler 5 2-3 13; Jenna DeSabella 0 0-0 0; Sarah Stolze 0 0-0 0; Cassi Barbato 3 0-0 9; Gianna Ghitsa 0 0-0 0; Allie Palmieri 2 5-5 9. Totals: 12 7-12 36
Nicole Holmes 1 1-4 3; Maddie Phelps 0 0-0 0; Ellie Fair 3 0-0 6; Alva Nordin 1 0-0 2; Lexi Mogkouit 0 0-0 0; Marissa Shorrock 2 0-0 5; Abby Carter 1 0-0 3; Marley Lopez-Paul 2 2-2 6; Jenn Westphal 0 0-0 0. Totals: 10 3-6 25
STAPLES 6 6 8 5 -25
TRUMBULL 8 9 7 12 – 36
3-Pointers Made: Trumbull: Kelly O’leary-1, Krystina Schueler-1; Cassi Barbato-3; Staples: Marissa Shorrock-1; Abby Carter-1