Trinity Too Much for Dons
WHEELING — Playing what’s left of the team that knocked his out of the West Virginia Class A Region One tournament last season, Trinity Christian coach John Fowkes did not want his team looking past Weirton Madonna in the semifinals of the Undo’s Tournament on Friday afternoon.
However, with a potential battle of the unbeatens looming with Wheeling Central in Saturday night’s championship game, that was easier said than done through eight minutes of play.
But after taking the Blue Dons’ best punch in the first quarter, turning up the heat on defense in the second chapter and nailing some big 3-point goals, the Warriors took care of their business and ran away from Madonna during the final three quarters.
Junior Briston Bennett scored a game-high 14 points to lead a balanced attack, that had every starter in double-figures, and Trinity forced 17 turnovers in the middle two quarters to take control and run away with a 72-45 victory over the Blue Dons at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Fowkes’ charges head to the championship game and will get the opportunity they came to the Friendly City for –a meeting of the unbeaten with the Maroon Knights at 8:30 tonight.
“We came out very lethargic and I honestly believe a little bit of that was looking past a very-well coached team,” Fowkes said. “Normally we are averaging giving up two or four points in the opening quarter, but they hung in there with us (Friday).
“Our kids have made a name for themselves with defense. Maybe it was getting used to the bigger floor or maybe it just wasn’t guarding people, but it really didn’t make sense to me.”
Madonna (1-4) freshman Lucky Pulice got things going with a big 3-pointer that held up for nearly three minutes until Trinity (6-0) went on an 8-0 run. But the Blue Dons turned the ball over just two times in the opening chapter and continued battling until the quarter ended in a 14-14 deadlock.
Coach Chris Blair watched his team take its final lead of the night at 7:48 of the second on another Pulice hoop that made it 16-14. The Warriors then turned up the heat, forced nine turnovers in the second and finished on a 20-4 run to move to a 34-20 lead at the break.
“We normally don’t give up more than 40 points a game, so the kids were challenged at the half to make that happen again,” Fowkes said.
With eight more turnovers in the third, the lead continued to grow for Trinity, who led by 25 twice in the quarter, including 54-29 with eight minutes to play.
“I know we hit some 3-pointers in the second when we took control, but we have a big kid in the middle (Daniel Woods) who is one of the best in the state and I want to get him the ball. Sometimes we fall in love with that three-point line and I am not very fond of that,” Fowkes said. “He got into some foul trouble and didn’t play his best game (Friday), but the standard is very high with that kid and he needs to touch the ball more. I think he may have done a little too much standing around in this game.
“We beat a quality, well-coached team (Friday), but I don’t think there is any question where our focus has been coming up here. It was hard not to look past Weirton Madonna and we couldn’t do it.”
Joseph Zini and Woods evenly divided 24 points for the Warriors, with Woods adding a game-high 10 rebounds while playing in foul trouble, while Joel Robertson added 11 and Caleb Jenkins tallied 10. Senior Chayce Lemley had a team-high 13 for the Dons while Pulice added nine and Evan Boniti eight.
“We had a much better start to this game than we have been getting,” Blair said. “But we have to get a better handle of things throughout the game. I felt like we played into their press and they are too good of a team and too well-coached to do that.
“Turnovers were a big key to the game, but we just have to keep working and getting better. We had some rotation problems on the 3-pointers and got caught watching the ball. They are a very difficult matchup.
“It wasn’t the 3s that hurt us, it was the uncontested 3s. We wanted to keep it tight inside, but you can’t forget about the three-point line either.”