Defense, defense, defense. It wins championships, or in Trinity's case it gets them to the the championship game. They only allowed 10 points in the entire 1st half, and only 36 for the game.
As a result, the Trinity High boys basketball team is headed back to the title game for the 4th time in the last 6 years. Behind a strong team effort led by Silvere Aluko (game-high 16 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block) and Zach Stevens (14 points, shot 5/6 from the field and 4/5 from downtown) the Pioneers were able to defeat Alvirne 51-36 in the first semi-final on Tuesday night at UNH.
Stevens' Hot Start Sets Tone Early
Alvirne has been playing zone last couple of games, and it's worked. Not so much tonight. Not so much when you're going against a team that has the best shooter in the state. Stevens hit 3 consecutive three-pointers right off the bat, putting Trinity up 10-0. Alvirne called timeout. When they came out of it, they picked the Pioneers up man-to-man. And just like that, Trinity forced Alvirne to come out of the very defense that had worked so well for them in their 2 upset victories in the playoffs over #6 seed Merrimack and #3 seed Memorial. Stevens would add another 3 later on. You just cannot leave him open. And if you extend your defense too much to shut him down, that leaves the inside wide open for Wal Majong to drive the ball to the rim, or for Aluko and Andrew Lauderdale to operate on the low block. Pick your poison.
Trinity Tri-Towers Come Up Big (Literally!)
Take a look at the stat lines for Trinity's 3 bigs:
Silvere Aluko (6'10") 16 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block
Mabor Gabriel (6'7") 5 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks and 1 steal
Andrew Lauderdale (6'7") 2 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals
With their size, Alvirne wasn't able to get anything offensively inside. Broncos guard Tony Beaulieu is a very good slasher. He is explosive going to the rim and knows how to finish. Yet every time he went to the rim he got his shot blocked by one of those big guys. Alvirne's 2 big guys (Jimmy Tomaswick and Tyler Livingston) shot a combined 2/9 from the floor. Beaulieu went 2/10. And Caleb Donnelly, who is one of the state's best shooters, went 0/9 from beyond the arc in this game. Donnelly shot 6/18 from the floor, and the Broncos as a team only shot 11/21 (52%) from the free throw line.
"Hunter (Viscarello) did a great job on Donnelly" said Trinity head coach Dave Keefe. "I think he's one of the best defenders in the state."
Carmen was Clutch
Late in the 3rd quarter Alvirne made a nice run to cut into the Trinity lead. Senior guard/forward Jon Baldwin made a great play with 1.9 seconds left in the 3rd. He threw the ball off a Trinity player's back on the inbounds pass, got it back and laid it in the hoop at the buzzer. After Trinity led 27-10 at halftime, Alvirne had completed a very good 3rd quarter, outscoring the Pioneers 15-4.
Then a freshman took over.
"For a freshman who hasn't made a shot in 3 games, it was so big for us, and for him" said Coach Keefe. "I'm so happy for him."
It's no secret that freshman wing Carmen Giampetruzzi can shoot the basketball. But for a kid that is only a freshman, playing on a college floor in a semi-final game in front of a couple thousand people, to hit not 1 but 4 BIG jump shots, just as Alvirne was making a comeback was HUGE. Trinity did a nice job of moving the basketball around, getting it inside and then the bigs kicking it out. Giampetruzzi was getting some open looks, and he wasn't missing. He went 4/4, all on long jump shots to seal the victory for the Pioneers.
Broncos Had a Good Run
They didn't play their best game tonight, there's no getting around that. But that doesn't change the fact that Alvirne had a good run, you have to give them credit. This was a team on paper that before the season projected to finish somewhere between 13th - 15th in D-I. I penciled them in for 6 or 7, MAYBE 8 wins. They started the season 0-6 and have a 1st-year head coach. So the fact that these guys not only went 9-9 during the regular season and get the #11 seed, but then go on to beat both #6 Merrimack and #3 Memorial is impressive stuff. Alvirne coach Seth Garon should be the D-I Coach of the Year, hands down. The other 3 final four teams, BG, Central and Trinity, they were all supposed to be good. They were supposed to make it this far. Alvirne wasn't. Coach Garon got the most out of what he had to work with. You have to give the kids on the team credit for working hard and playing as a team, but Garon deserves the award. Donnelly also deserves to be first team all-state.