Yes it's true that Trinity already had the #1 seed in the Division I tournament locked up before tonight's game. And yes it's true that because it was senior night the 5 players who normally start for the Pioneers sat out the first 3 minutes of the game. But the fact is that when they put their starters in there it was a tie ball game 7-7. And from that point on it was clear that both Trinity and Pinkerton were going at each other hard and both playing to win. From that point on both teams played their normal rotations.
Trinity had the #1 seed locked up but they still wanted to have some momentum going into the playoffs and they wanted to get a win on their home court on senior night. Pinkerton meanwhile still had a shot at a top 4 seed in the Division I tournament with a win.
Both teams were playing to win, but on this night Pinkerton was flat out the Better basketball team. Their starting 5 (Chris Light, Alex Patrikis, Kevin Colbert, Cam Welch and Sean Smith) is as good as any starting unit in the state. And on Friday night they went on the road to McHugh Gymnasium (which in my opinion is the toughest gym in D-I for opposing teams to win at) and they beat a Pinkerton team many are picking to win the state title. The Astros went on a 15-0 in the 2nd half and that was the difference in the game, as they went on to win by a final score of 59-52.
"Trinity is a sleeping giant" said Pinkerton head coach Peter Rosinski. "Trinity, Merrimack and Central are the 3 best teams. We have a chance to be in that mix but, we have to take better care of the basketball. The bounces went our way tonight, and sometimes that's what it takes to win."
There was a nice moment to begin the game, as Hunter Viscarello got to play for the first 3 minutes. Viscarello is a senior and has been a key member of the Pioneers team for 3 years now. He suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year. He had a brace on the knee and was hobbling around out there, but still was ale to go out there and play the first 3 minutes which was a nice gesture for him to be able to play on senior night.
This was definitely a game of runs, and there were 2 major runs that occurred. First Trinity went on a 14-1 run in the 2nd quarter to go from being down 23-16 to being on top 30-24. 6'10" senior Aluko got the run started with an emphatic blocked shot on Welch coming over from the weak side. Light (who had a game-high 18 points) then went right at Aluko and made a strong and-1 finish to make it a 23-16 Pinkerton lead.
That's when Trinity started to really get it going. It was another blocked shot by the Pioneers that got the run started, as Carmen Giampetruzzi came over on help defense and swatted away a shot attempt by Pinkerton freshman guard Luke Testa. Trinity then got 3 baskets VERY quickly, as Patrick Keefe made a layup on the other end in transition, followed by a put-back by Andrew Lauderdale and a layup by Giampetruzzi. 6'7" junior forward Mabor Gabriel capped the run with a strong drive and pull-up jumper from about 12 feet away. The 14-1 run by Trinity was complete - they were now up 30-24 with about a minute left in the 1st half and had ALL of the momentum on their side. Pinkerton was in danger of really digging themselves a large deficit going into halftime.
However one of the key points in the game came in that last minute of the 2nd quarter. Because just when it seemed like Trinity was about to run away with this thing and their home crowd was going nuts the Astros were able to keep their cool and got a pair of BIG baskets. Light and Colbert both went strong to the basket, challenging the Trinity big guys and making a couple of tough finishes in traffic. That silenced the Trinity crowd, cut the Pioneer's lead to 30-28 and gave Pinkerton some momentum going into halftime.
The game of runs continued in the 3rd quarter. Pinkerton started off with a 6-0 run (10-0 run if you count their 2 buckets at the end of the 1st half) and the Astros now took a 34-30 lead as Light made another nice and-finish followed up by a strong post move and shot inside. Colbert then made a great play by driving to the basket, and when he was met by the 6'7" Lauderdale on help defense Colbert made a spin move in the lane away from Lauderdale, freeing himself up for an easy layup on the other side of the basket. The bottom line is Pinkerton was attacking the Trinity defense off the dribble all game and if they weren't finishing over the Pioneer's big front line they were drawing fouls and getting Trinity into foul trouble which allowed them to get to the foul line early and often.
"You just have to protect the ball and go right at them" said Light. "We knew about how big they were so we were trying to be physical with them inside."
Back and forth we went, as it was now once again Trinity's turn to go on a run. Once again the Trinity run was ignited by a blocked shot. This time it was Gabriel who came over from the weak side and came up with the block. Gabriel then ran hard up the floor, made a catch in traffic, plus an and-1 finish. The Gabriel show continued, as he grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in for 2 more points.
Trinity went on an 8-2 run to re-take the lead 38-36. However the 2 points Pinkerton had during that stretch were 2 loud points, as Welch grabbed a steal, passed it ahead to Light who slammed down a thunderous dunk on the break. That got the Astros going, and from there they really picked up their defensive intensity. Trinity freshman point guard Ian Sistare (who had 9 points on the game) had some trouble protecting the ball against the intense defensive pressure, and specifically he had trouble with Sean Smith who was guarding him. Smith really started to wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor, coming up with 2 BIG steals and converting both of them into layups on the other end during the Pinkerton 15-0 run. Smith (who had 9 points) also got to the foul line a couple times and when he did the trinity student section chanted, "Soccer! Soccer!"
"Smith has a scholarship to play soccer next year at St. A's" said Coach Rosinski. "He did a great job off the ball defensively. We felt that we were quicker than them at the 1, 2 and 3 positions."
Another play who came up big for the Astros during their 15-0 2nd half run was forward Scott Bradley. Pinkerton does not play their bench very much, but Bradley gave them some big minutes in the 3rd quarter and he hit a pair of BIG jumpers from the foul line. It was obvious that Trinity was helping off Bradley to focus more on their other guys and he made them pay.
Light also made a put-back inside over the Trinity bigs during the run and Pinkerton took a 46-38 lead into the 4th quarter, ending the 3rd on a 10-0 run. To start the 4th quarter the Astros continued to dominate play. Welch came up with 5 points to increase the lead to 51-38. The first 2 points came at the foul line after he made a smart play by drawing the contact on a jump shot after getting his defender up in the air on a shot-fake. Then Welch drilled a step-back three to cap the 15-0 run.
Just when it looked like Pinkerton was going to run away with it, cruise to the win and the last 6:30 of the game would be garbage time Trinity wasn't ready to give up quite yet. Senior guard Jake Hamel hit back-to-back threes and just like that the Pioneers were back in the game, only trailing 51-44 with 3:48 left to play. Then Sistare made a great play to drive into the lane and hit a floater to cut the Pinkerton lead to 51-46, capping an 8-0 run by Trinity. Give credit to Sistare because he didn't get rattled after the turnovers he had in the 3rd quarter. He kept his head up and with Smith once again pressuring the heck out of him defensively he made a great play there for the bucket.
Once though it was Welch who answered back for Pinkerton, hitting a baseline jump shot to push the Astro's lead back up to 55-46 with 2:30 left to play. Welch scored 7 of his 9 points in the 4th quarter. Trinity was still in the game, but they weren't able to make enough of a run late to come back and win it, as they only scored 1 point over the next 2 minutes. Giampetruzzi hit a three to cut the Pinkerton lead to 56-50 with 41.7 seconds left, but it was too little too late.
"This win gives us a lot of momentum going into the playoffs" said Light. "We made some adjustments at halftime."
The Astros took care of the ball, made their free throws and held on for the 59-52 win. Pinkerton ends the regular season with a 13-5 record, while Trinity finishes 15-3. Pinkerton's starting 5 is playing very well right now, they will be a scary team to face in the tournament no question about it.
"All of us are really good buddies off the court too, we really like playing together" said Light.