FAIRFIELD — Trumbull High saw its 20-point lead after one quarter evaporate over the next three periods, but come crunch time the Eagles had enough left in the tank to hold off St. Joseph, 76-67, before a crowd of 2,300 fans in a Playing for a Cure game to benefit the American Cancer Society at Fairfield University’s Alumni Hall on Saturday night.
“I know having a 26-point lead go to one point looks bad,” Trumbull coach Buddy Bray said. “That speaks to how St. Joe’s battled back and to how we responded. We could have lost control, but we didn’t. Credit our bench. They did a great job with Quentar Taylor, Evan Gutowski and Timmond Williams in foul trouble.
“When we got our five (starters) together we caught a rhythm the last four minutes, with Evan, Quentar and Timmond making big free throws. Mileeq Green had 20 rebounds and seven assists. Chris Brown (16 points) filled up the stat sheet.”
St. Joseph drew within 57-56 on a Stephen Paolini free throw with 5:20 remaining.
Williams scored off assists from Gutowski and Taylor, before the Cadets’ Dan Tobin hit a jumper in the lane to make it 61-58 with 4:14 on the clock.
Out of a St. Joseph timeout, Williams followed his own miss for a putback basket for two of his 28 points.
Paul Fabbri and Tobin (8 rebounds) converted drives through traffic and again it was a three-point game.
Then, Green’s 19th rebound allowed Taylor to reset the offense after a missed free throw. The Eagles scored on the next four possessions, three times on breakaways off rebounds, to close out its 13th win in 14 starts.
“I told the team at the half (down 39-22) if we could get within 10 by the fourth quarter we would have a chance,” said Cadet coach Kevin Wielk. “I knew Trumbull would come out on fire, and that we couldn’t get off to a slow start, but that is what happened.
“Our guys never give up. We look to score, get a stop, and chip away.”
Paolini scored 16 of his 25 points on the night on a variety of shots to lead St. Joseph to a 27-16 edge in the third quarter.
The senior, who had eight boards, needed to be on target because Williams scored the Eagles’ first nine points and ended the frame with 13 markers of his own.
“Stephen caught fire,” Bray said. “Tip of the hat to him…His shots were contested and he stuck them. Thankfully, we had Timmond filling it up.”
Trumbull scored points on 14-of-18 possessions in the first quarter to go on top 27-7.
Brown had seven points and two assists. Gutowski had six points of his 12 points and a pair of helpers. Williams had five points.
Taylor had a pair of electrifying drives to the rim and two assists in the first three minutes for a 10-0 lead.
St. Joseph turned the ball over seven times. The Cadets were 2 for 8 from the field and 3 for 7 from the foul line.
Trumbull’s lead grew to 33-7 on Jack Therriault’s layup off one of Gutowski’s six assists.
Tobin (19 points) and Fabbri (10 points) led St. Joseph back, and the margin slipped to 17 on Tobin’s buzzer-beating putback.
Paolini buried a trio of three-pointers in the final 2:53 of the third quarter, the last with four seconds remaining, and it was 55-49 going into the final period.
Bray said, “I want to thank all the parties involved in this special night. It is a great cause and four great teams gave the fans something they could enjoy.”
Wielk said, “I thought the environment was great. The student sections from both schools were amazing and really made it a fantastic night for basketball.”
TRUMBULL 76, ST.JOSEPH 67
St. Joseph (9-4, 7-3 FCIAC)
Stephen Paolini 9 4-8 25, Dan Tobin 7 5-10 19, Paul Fabbri 4 2-2 10, Brendan Kade 0 2-2 2, Jason James 2 1-2 6, Will Diamantis 0 0-0 0, Bryan Robertson 0 0-0 0, Tyler DuBose 1 1-2 3, Glen Manigault 1 0-0 2. Totals: 24 15-26 67
Trumbull (13-1, 10-0 FCIAC)
Mileeq Green 3 0-1 6, Chris Brown 7 1-2 16, Timmond Williams 11 4-4 28, Evan Gutowski 5 2-2 12, Quentar Taylor 4 1-2 9, Dylan Palinkas 0 0-0 0, J.P. Fromageot 1 1-3 3, Jack Therriault 1 0-2 2. Totals: 32 9-16 76.
Scoring by quarters
St. Joseph – 7 15 27 18 – 67
Trumbull – 27 12 16 21 – 76