Girls basketball: Trumbull downs Wilton in FCIAC title game

The Wilton High girls basketball team came up short in its bid to win its first FCIAC championship in 29 years, as the Trumbull Eagles got out to an early lead and held on for a 60-49 win on Thursday night at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

For the top-seeded Eagles, it was their second FCIAC championship in a row.

The second-seeded Warriors, who found themselves down as many as 28 points in the third quarter and started the final quarter down 21 points, made a valiant comeback and got to within eight points with two minutes left. But the hole they put themselves in was just too much to overcome.

“Let me just say first how proud I am for the way the team played. They kept battling to the end and never gave up,” said Wilton head coach Rob Coloney. “They wanted it so bad and I wish I could have done more to help them tonight.”

He continued, “Our game plan was to try and slow the pace of the game and keep it a low-scoring game. But they got out to a fast start, hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter and that killed us. We wanted to force them to make shots and they did.”

Wilton won the opening tip and a Caroline Sweeny basket gave the Warriors a 2-0 lead. The Eagles then went on an 18-0 run, fueled by four 4-pointers and five Warrior turnovers, and the Warriors played from behind the rest of the way.

Wilton’s next points came on two free throws by Emily Tuin with 1:36 left in the first period. Trumbull led 23-10 at the end of the first quarter.

The Eagles’ scoring pace slowed in the second quarter, but more so for the Warriors as they could only manage two baskets in the period. Trumbull outscored Wilton 13-4 in the second quarter and took a 36-14 lead into halftime. Wilton committed four more turnovers in the period. Claire Gulbin had eight of the Warriors 14 first half points.

Trumbull was able to capitalize on Wilton’s first-half turnovers by using quick passes around the perimeter and finding the open teammate, most of the time for a 3-pointer. Trumbull also used the size of its front line to control the boards, and block and alter Warrior shot attempts.

In the third quarter the Eagles’ lead grew to 28 points twice, at 42-14 and at 44-16. Wilton then started its comeback effort, outscoring the Eagles 12-5 to end the third quarter down by 21 at 49-28. Sweeny sparked the Warriors with six points on putback baskets and short jumpers.

Once again, just like in the semifinal game on Tuesday night, Gulbin put the team on her back to try for a miracle comeback. She scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, which included the Warriors’ final 11 points of the game. Gulbin finished the night with a game-high 27 points.

Gulbin’s basket with two minutes to play got the Warriors to with eight points at 55-47. Trumbull turned the ball over eight times in the final period and shot poorly from the foul line, but the Warriors couldn’t capitalize on their opponent’s misfortunes as they had a sub-par night from the free-throw line also. Wilton was 14-for-25 from the free-throw line and Trumbull was 9-for-19.

In addition to Gulbin’s 27 points, Sweeny had 12 points for Wilton. Gulbin had three 3-pointers on the night, the only three by the Warriors.

The Eagles got balanced scoring from its starters and bench players. Julie Keckler, who was named tournament MVP, led Trumbull with 13 points. Cassi Barbato added nine points, Krystina Schueler and Allie Palmieri each had eight points, Meghan Lesko and Brady Lynch had six points each, and Kelly O’Leary and Aisling Maguire added five points apiece.  Trumbull knocked down nine 3-pointers in the game.