Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trinity Boys Over West in Defensive Battle

Trinity vs. West. Hey, anytime these Manchester "city schools" get together it is always a sight to see. That was no different on Saturday afternoon over at McHugh Gymnasium, when the two teams matched up in a make-up game after their tilt Friday night was re-scheduled.

It was physical, intense, hard fought and at times sloppy. Both teams shot under 25% from the floor and turned the ball over 20 times. But both teams were also very good defensively. West was only down 37-36 with 40 seconds left. But in the end, the Trinity High boys basketball team prevailed with a 42-36 win over Manchester West to remain undefeated (7-0) on the season.

Low Scoring Affair Would be Understatement
Scoring picked up in the 4th quarter, where Trinity outscored West 16-14 as the two teams traded big hoops. But for the first 3 quarters points were VERY hard to come by. At the end of the 1st quarter it was Trinity 6 West 4...ouch! Trinity led 17-16 at the half (no player had more than 5 points at the half) and they led 26-22 after 3. In the end, the game's leading scorer (Jose Gonzalez from West) had just 12 points, and Trinity's leading scorers Andrew Lauderdale and Wol Majong both had just 10.

So points were at a premium, there's no denying that. But why? It was a combination of tough defense being played by both teams along with sloppy play and many easy shots that were missed inside.

West really got after it on the defensive end. They really did a nice job of pressuring the basketball. Their back court of Samy Abdalla and Carl Jacques is lightning quick and they forced a number of Trinity turnovers. Abdalla had 4 steals, and after he got a steal he had the speed to push the ball on the break and either finish or get himself to the line. The 5'10" Jacques made a nice hustle play in the 1st quarter by going up for a rebound against the 6'7" Lauderdale and despite being 9 inches shorter he was able to go up, grab the ball and tie him up for the jump ball. He also took a big charge on defense as well on Majong.

"I'm happy with the way we played" said Manchester West first-year head coach Dan Bryson. "We left it all out on the floor."

For Trinity, it was the defensive effort of junior guard Hunter Viscarello and the "Trinity Tri-Towers" which made life difficult for the West offense. Viscarello continues to show why he's one of the better perimeter defenders in the state. He was covering Abdalla, and held him to just 5 points. And down low in the post, it was very difficult for the Blue Knights to get any offense in the paint because of the size the Pioneers have down there. Trinity has 6'10" Silvere Aluko, 6'7" Mabor Gabriel and 6'7" Lauderdale, and they always have 2 of those 3 guys on the floor. The three big guys combined to block 7 shots on the game, as West struggled to get any offense inside. This forced them to take more outside shots, and for the most part they weren't falling.

Difference = Trinity Just Made More Plays Down the Stretch
This was a close ball game the whole way. Trinity's largest lead was just 6 (10-4), while West's largest lead was only 4 (16-12). The whole way it was either a 1 or 2 possession game. Some of the game's big plays included a steal by Blue Knights guard/forward Aaron Martin and then a nice and-1 finish on the other end early in the 2nd quarter. Martin then drilled a mid-range jumper to give West their first lead of the game at 12-10. Abdalla then had a steal and lay-up on the other end which made it 14-10 West and completed a 10-0 Blue Knights run.

Martin then hit a long two point field goal to tie the game up at 22-22 with 1:55 left in the 3rd quarter. Trinity just kept answering any run that West made, though. Majong made a nice drive, spin move into the lane and finished with the left hand to put the Pioneers up 33-28.

Martin and Zac Clancy both hit clutch three-pointers for West to keep them in the ball game. Gonzalez made a nice move in the low post to score on Lauderdale and cut the Trinity lead to 37-36 with 1:30 left in the game.

"Jose Got more assertive in the 2nd half" said Coach Bryson. "If he did that in the 1st half it would have been a different game."

West then had 2 key possessions in the game's last 1:30 to either tie or take the lead...they turned it over both times. They were down 37-36 with the basketball. They missed a shot, but Abdalla made a hustle play to come up with the offensive rebound. It did look as though he got fouled, as 2 Trinity defenders were all over him. But the officials called a jump ball, and the possession arrow gave the ball back to Trinity.

After a pair of Pioneer foul shots it was 39-36 Trinity with about 30 seconds left in the 4th quarter. West had the ball with a chance to tie the game or they could go for a quick two-point field goal and then foul right away. Martin had the ball on the perimeter right in front of the Blue Knight's bench. That's when the referee blew the whistle and said that Martin had stepped out of bounds. A tough break for West, as Martin was not even being closely guarded on the play.

After more free throws for Trinity it was over. The boys from Bridge Street win it 42-36.

Key Calls Late Affected the Game's Outcome
There was 3 key calls late which all went in Trinity's favor. There was the jump ball call at the end on the Abdalla offensive rebound where it looked like he got fouled. There was the play where Martin stepped out of bounds when it didn't look as though he was near the line.

The most blatant call however came a little earlier than those 2. Trinity guard Zach Stevens went up for a deep jump shot, lost the ball on the way up and came back down with it. It looked like the ball may have been partially tipped by West defender Aaron Martin, but regardless it should have been a travel. Instead, the officials let it go.

"I lost it on the way up, it was a travel" said Stevens. "I lucked out on that one."

Martin turned to the referee to protest the no-call, but as he did Stevens picked the ball back up and banked it off the glass from 15 feet away. It was a VERY crucial basket late in the game.

"The referees are human and they make mistakes" said Coach Bryson. "But those calls definitely hurt us."

West Continues to Play Short-handed
Starting wing Quintin Hunter has been out of the West High lineup ever since he suffered a knee injury in the first round of the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament vs. Manchester Central.

"He might be out for the year" said Bryson. "He's getting an MRI this week to find out. We have to just go out the and play with the guys we've got.

Starting in place of Hunter on Saturday afternoon was 6'1" junior forward Ivan Ilic, a hard working inside player. But he was also injured in this game.

"Ivan's headed to the hospital right now to get some stitches in his head" lamented Bryson.

Stevens Sounds Off
Trinity won a hard fought game to remained unbeaten in Division I on the season. But instead of cheering and first-pumping (for you Jersey Shore fans), there was a much more melancholic mood inside the Pioneer's locker room after the game.

"We have to play with more confidence" said Trinity senior guard and captain Zach Stevens. "We're 7-0, but we're not playing like it. If you watched us play you wouldn't think you're watching a 7-0 team in Division I, we look like a 0-7 middle school team. We have the 3 biggest guys in the state and we don't take advantage of that. We need to get those guys the ball more. And that is mostly my fault, I take responsibility for that. Wol and myself need to look for them inside more. We need to start playing better and with more confidence, if we keep playing like this we're going to lose a lot of games."

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