By: Tuesday and Friday
Trinity had a big 4th quarter outscoring Central 17 to 7 to get a big victory from their arch rival 49 to 45. Mabor Gabriel came up big scoring 8 points in the final stanza for the Pioneers. The 6'7 senior calmly went 6 - 6 from the FT line in the deciding 4th quarter. 10 of Trinity's 17 4th quarter points came from the charity stripe. For the game the Pioneers shot 21 - 32 from the FT line. The Pioneers out scored Central from the charity stripe 21 - 6 to take sole possession of 1st place in D1 boys.
The atmosphere in the Simon Gym was buzzing at halftime of the JV game. Any body who is any one in the Queen city was there. You had former great players, coaches and referees in attendance. There was a slew of players from other teams. It was Queen City aficionado heaven. FINALLY a gym was packed for a regular season game. There was a buzz in the air.
Both teams responded to this Queen City hoop buzz by playing one of the best quarters of basketball of the year with Central gaining a 19 to 14 1st quarter advantage. The Little Green had a quicker step than they did a week ago against South. Pelletier had 7 and Dickson had 6 to lead Central in the opening quarter. Mike Plentzas looked strong with 4 points and some rebounds. Mabor Gabriel helped the Pioneers keep pace with 6 first quarter points.
Things slowed up a bit for both teams in the 2nd quarter. The shots weren't as crisp. Defense for both teams became more evident. Passing lanes were challenged. Shots were altered. The opening period buzz and the quick steps became tired over the 2nd eight minutes. Doc and Keefa started wearing out their respective coaching boxes. Doc and Keefa. The show within the show. Doc thrusting his arms and fists like a heavy weight boxer exhorting his players on. Keefa trying to amble onto the court as Trinity's 6th man and being shown back into the coaches box by both referees with this year's new emphasis on coaches box enforcement. Doc's voice became more gargly and horse as each minute passed. One can only wonder if Doc uses Smith Bros or Riccola throat lozenges during and after the game. No larynx gets a more thorough work out than Doc Wheeler's in a big game. My throat hurt just being in close proximity to Doc. Pass me a Smith Bros lozenge please !!!!
Central held a slim 27 to 25 advantage at halftime. With 6:27 left in the 3rd quarter Pelletier picked up his 3rd foul. He continued to play and be effective as the POY candidate had 5 points in the 3rd to help Central maintain a continual 2nd half lead. Pelletier had 18 points after 3 quarters and seemed to have Dave Haley's POY vote at this point. Pelletier helped carry Central in the 3rd along with a couple of 3's by Brett Hanson. There were long droughts of scoring in the 3rd period as the lack of quality depth for both teams took it's toll mentally and physically. Turnovers, jump balls and violations became the norm in the 3rd quarter.
Ryan Otis drew Troy Pelletier's 4th foul on a drive to the hoop with 5;29 left in the game. Doc left Pelletier in at this point which points to 2 things for Central: 1) They really need Pelletier to carry them at precarious points of the game and 2) Lack of quality depth for Central to even give Pelletier a 1 minute breather in a big game. 30 seconds later Ryan Otis picked Dawson Dickson's pocket near center court, drove to the hoop and drew Dickson's 4th foul. Otis went 0 - 4 on the 4th foul Pelletier and Dickson free throws. Central was clinging to a tenuous small lead.
With 3;25 left Trinity stole the ball in the Central backcourt. The ball was kicked to Carmen G. who knocked down a 3 to give Trinity a 39 - 38 lead. It was Trinity's first lead of the 2nd half. The Trinity stands ROCKED the Simon Gym. 2 Mabor Gabriel FTs made it 41 - 38 with 2:45 left. Dawson Dickson converted a huge And 1 with 2:18 remaining to tie the game at 41. The Central student body was ROCKING.
Mabor Gabriel then took over the next 45 seconds of the game. He became a POY force in the paint. He knocked down 2 FTs with 2:06 left to give Trinity a 43 - 41 lead. He then made it 45 - 41 with a paint layup with 1:31 left. Central had a few opportunities to score over the next minute. Shots rimmed out, shots were blocked by Pioneers and the tired Little Green legs were showing. With 28 seconds left Pelletier scooped up an offensive rebound at the elbow and dribble drove and finished to get Central within 2 at 45 to 43.
A key moment then took place 7 seconds later. Brett Hanson stole the ball and was going in on a break away layup when the referees' whistle halted play and the mechanic for a kicked ball was displayed. Take away the break away layup and give the ball back to Trinity at half court. Doc was so furious it looked like he could've kicked a case of throat lozenges 64 yards to set a new FG record.
Pat Keefe knocked down 2 FTs with 16 seconds left to give Trinity a 47 to 43 lead. Tyler Kelley scored a layup with 4 seconds left to bring Central within 2. Brad Rhoades was up to about 4.8 to 4.9 seconds on the ensuing inbounds when he called a Trinity time out. Trinity came out of the TO to inbound to POY candidate Mabor Gabriel who was then fouled. Gabriel sunk 2 POY-like FTS with 3.3 seconds left to secure the victory for Trinity.
What started out as a smooth flowing game turned into a typical Queen City rock, glass and nail fight the rest of the way. Both teams being short on the bench took it's toll from the 2nd quarter on. Wenyin Gabriel is really coming on and playing some important end of the season quality basketball for the Pioneers. With his and his brother's length along with Carmen G's strength punishing the paint, it made it very difficult on the lesser lengthed Little Green. The Pioneers outscored Central 21 to 6 from the FT line for a reason. The Pioneer length gathered one offensive rebound after another until Central fouled them to put them at the line. Trinity took full advantage of this situation. The Pioneers found a lot of Charity in the Simon Gym tonight.
The POY battle between Pelletier and Gabriel? They both came up big with 20 points each. Gabriel was huge from the FT line going 10 - 10. Well, Dave Haley had Pelletier down for POY at the end of the 3rd quarter. When Gabriel took control of the game in the 4th quarter I ambled up to Mr. Haley and in my best Lee Corso voice said, "Not so fast my friend!!" Chris Shuker told me after the game there is no doubt it's Gabriel for POY. All I'm saying it is wide open for POY. There is still a game left in the season. Paradis from Spaulding and the Preston brothers will be heard from. This will be a rock fight for POY.
Trinity closes their season at Timberlane on Friday. Central goes on the road to Bedford for a very interesting matchup with a peaking Bedford team and Coach Fitzpatrick. Don't be surprised if you see Doc in a Bedford drug store picking up some throat lozenges Friday evening before heading to Bedford High. Heh, it's that time of year, with March right around the corner.