Girls basketball: Warriors fall to top-ranked Trumbull in OT

The Wilton High girls basketball team had a tall order to overcome when it hit the court against the Trumbull Eagles on Tuesday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

The Warriors were matched up against the top-ranked team in the state coming into the game, with a 16-0 record, and a team with a tall front line.

The Warriors gave the Eagles their best game of the year, putting forth a great effort and playing with a lot of energy. But the Eagles pulled away in the overtime period to get out of the Wilton with an exciting 56-50 win.

A reverse layup by Wilton’s Claire Gulbin with 2:47 to play in regulation had tied the game at 45-45. Both teams had chances to score before the end of regulation, but neither could find that winning basket. Wilton had possession of the ball with a minute left and slowed it down looking for the last shot, but that strategy didn’t pay off and the game went to overtime.

Gulbin drained a long 3-pointer to get things going in the overtime, but Aisling Maguire hit a 3-pointer for Trumbull the next trip down the floor to tie the game again at 48-48.

A bucket by Claudia Tucci off a missed Trumbull free throw put the visitors up 50-48. Gulbin, who had a game-high 28 points, hit a jumper to tie the game at 50-50 with less than two minutes left in overtime.

Taylor Brown knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:21 to play to give the Eagles the lead for good at 53-50. Trumbull finished up the game at the foul line going three-for-four to seal the 56-50 win.

“The loss stinks, but the team gave a great effort tonight and showed the world what we are capable of doing. We just took one of the top teams in the state to overtime and we can take away a lot of positives from this game,” said an excited Wilton head coach Rob Coloney. “They believed in themselves and their abilities and they gave me a great performance. We got contributions from several players. They put forth a tremendous effort for the entire 36 minutes of the game and we didn’t beat ourselves. They tried to press us and they had to back off when that didn’t work and we tried to get into the paint Tucci in foul trouble.”

He continued, “Trumbull is leaving our gym knowing that we gave them a scare tonight and I’m sure they were pleased to get out of here with a win.”

The Warriors got off to a good start, never trailing in the first quarter, which ended with Wilton ahead 15-10. Gulbin (nine points) and Emily Tuin (six points) accounted for all the Wilton points in the period. Wilton’s first five baskets came off layups from Gulbin or Tuin, who were both able to get into the paint.

Wilton still had a five-point lead midway through the second quarter at 20-15, but Tucci got hot down low, scoring 11 points in the period to lead the Eagles on an 11-5 run to close out the half with Trumbull up 26-25.

The Eagles played an effective inside-out game, dumping the ball inside and taking the open shot when it was there of, if not, kicking it out for an open jumper.

Wilton had its biggest lead of the game late in the third quarter after a Meghan Downey bucket put the Warriors up 36-30. Downey, the shortest Wilton player on the court, fought for several offensive rebounds and was also credited with several tie-ups.

But a 7-0 run to finish the third quarter, again fueled by Tucci, gave the Eagles a 37-36 lead going into the final quarter.

The score was back and forth in the fourth quarter, with the game either tied or one of the teams up by no more than two points.

“We came into the game believing that we could beat this team and we played with confidence the entire game,” said Gulbin. “This is the way we should play every night, as we are battling for a spot in the FCIAC playoffs. We have to be mentally ready to play hard the entire 32 minutes of the game. Earlier in the year we didn’t give the effort we should have, but tonight it was different. We can’t let ourselves be deflated that we didn’t get the win. We have to take this confidence into our next game.”

Wilton travels to Greenwich on Friday. Coming into Tuesday night’s game, the Warriors were tied with Greenwich for the eighth and final playoff spot in the FCIAC.

The win was the 17th win of the season for the Eagles, who are now a perfect 17-0, while the Warriors overall record stands at 10-7.

In addition to Gulbin's 28 points, Wilton got eight points from Tuin and four points each from Downey, Elizabeth Breslin and Caroline Sweeny. Lauren Robertson added two points.

Tucci led the Eagles with 25 points, followed by Brown and Maguire, who chipped in 13 points each.