TRUMBULL — During the first regulated mask break midway through the first quarter of the Ridgefield-Trumbull girls basketball game, Trumbull guard Cassi Barbato went to a corner of the floor and pulled her mask under her chin.
Smiling at a teammate standing in the key, she said “Oh, hey!” as if she was greeting a long-lost friend.
High school students do not get to see their friends faces all that much anymore and Barbato’s enthusiasm was genuine.
Eleven months after it was shut down in the middle of the state tournament due to COVID-19, high school girls basketball was back on the floor of gyms across the state this week.
— Scott Ericson (@EricsonSports) February 11, 2021
The games look a little different with players, coaches and referees in masks; basketballs getting sanitized in a kiddie pool before and during the game; no fans in the crowd; players spaced out on the sideline and mandated mask breaks in the middle of every quarter.
Wednesday night, the players were thrilled to be back in action even as they adjust to the new normal.
“We didn’t know if we were going to have a season. Just to be back out here at all, is amazing,” Ridgefield senior Katie Flynn said. “(The biggest difference) I would say is the breaks because it is harder to get into a flow when you have to stop in the middle of every quarter. We were able to rise through it and get through it.”
Flynn scored a game-high 19 points as the Tigers, ranked No. 8 in the preseason GameTimeCT Girls Basketball Poll, defeated No. 2 Trumbull 47-40 in the opening game for both teams.
Trumbull was up 12-6 after one quarter, but Ridgefield went on a 27-6 run that spanned into the middle of the third quarter and led 37-23 after three.
Emi Roberto led Trumbull with 10 points.
Trumbull, which normally plays a tough out-of-conference schedule in December, has not even had a chance to scrimmage another team prior to the matchup with the defending FCIAC champions.
— Scott Ericson (@EricsonSports) February 10, 2021
“I think they were happy to be playing and I am proud of our effort. We had a really bad second quarter and got into some foul trouble. But, we gave up 20 points in the second quarter and only lost 47-40,” Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch said. “We didn’t have a preseason and we are still figuring out our rotation. We played a lot of kids tonight. We are trying to give more kids opportunities that we would normally give them in the preseason. And we want to keep kids fresh in the masks. I thought the kids and the officials did great with the mask breaks. They stayed spaced out, kept to their sides of the court.”
Both teams used all of their benches, especially in the first half. Ridgefield played 11 and Trumbull sent out 12 players during the game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Katie Flynn, Ridgefield
Flynn hit two big shots in the fourth quarter as Trumbull rallied. First she hit a 3-pointer after Trumbull had cut the deficit to seven. Later in the quarter stifling a Trumbull run with a mid-range jumper.
“I think the mask break is the biggest difference. The break comes and its just this minute where I’m not even allowed to talk to my kids and they are just standing there. It interrupts the game. It helps them catch their breath, but with as much subbing as we did, it just killed a minute each quarter and stopped the flow of the game,” Ridgefield coach Rob Coloney said. “I think in the style of play we play, we demand a lot of them. More reps for more people is super important. Pressing and playing up tempo is our identity. If we are going to be successful, we have to follow our identity. If we changed that to adapt to the protocols, we wouldn’t be the same team.”