Players speak out on trip to finals

Lauralton Hall is going to the Class LL basketball championship game.

Coach Amanda Forcucci’s second-seeded Crusaders defeated the third-seeded Eagles from Trumbull High, 44-36, in the semifinals before a packed house at Fairfield Ludlowe on Monday night.

“Since the Monday before Thanksgiving these girls have been working for this,” Forcucci said of her 21-1 cagers earning a berth opposite top-seeded Mercy High of Middletown (22-1) to play for the title either Friday or Saturday at the Mohegun Sun Arena in Uncasville.

“I’m so happy for them, elated to see what happens when you put all that (work) together.”

Michelle DeSantis scored 12 points, including four straight free throws down the stretch, as the Crusaders held off the 20-3 Eagles.

Olivia Levey scored off a Carly Fabbri assist to open the game and the senior forward then assisted on an Emma McCarthy hoop.

Fabbri’s 3-pointer gave Lauralton a 7-5 lead before Trumbull took a 10-9 lead at the break.

The Crusaders’ Bianca Robertson, Levey, McCarthy and Emily Bonzagni were charged with keeping Trumbull’s talented forward Erin Moore under wraps.

Robertson grabbed an offensive rebound and on the same possession saved a turnover, as the Crusaders matched Trumbull’s intensity.

“Everyone on the team gives all they have,” said Robertson, a senior along with DeSantis, Levey and Bonzagni. “Whatever is needed on the court is what we try and provide.”

McCarthy scored seven of her nine points in the second quarter, including a run-out three-point play.

Lauralton took a 23-16 lead into the half on Maggie Salandra’s clutch 3-pointer off a pass from Fabbri.

“It was crazy,” said Salandra, who scored nine points in the Crusaders’ semifinal win over Danbury. “I told myself that this is my shot and I had to take it. It gave us some momentum going into the second half.”

Salandra had a free throw and a 3-pointer off one of DeSantis’ six assists, to put Lauralton up by nine early in the third quarter.

Levey had two baskets in the period, including a nifty hook shot over Moore at the five-minute mark.

Trumbull rallied behind Moore, who scored all eight of her points in the period, before Bonzagni came up with a loose ball and was fouled going to the basket.

She made both freebies for a 33-24 lead.

“It’s been four years and from day one we have worked to get to the (Mohegun) Sun,” Bonzagni said. “Making the finals means everything.”

Trumbull’s Alexa Pfohl hit what could have been a momentum-shifting 3-pointer with 22 seconds left, but again DeSantis had an answer as she beat the clock with a driving layup.

Lauralton took a 35-29 lead into the fourth period.

Pfohl scored seven of her 10 points in the final stanza, when the Eagles twice drew within three points and trailed only 38-36 with 2:51 remaining.

Limited to three free throws up until this point, Fabbri drew contact while scoring on a baseline drive and Trumbull called for time down four with 2:14 left.

The Eagles turned the ball over twice on their next two possessions and that’s when DeSantis made her four free throws.

“The ultimate compliment is to play well when challenged, and Trumbull is a phenomenal team,” Forcucci said. “Everyone on this team has learned from the seniors that you have to share the minutes and share the effort. That’s why everyone on this team is a part of this (trip to the finals).”