The dynamic duo of Mabor Gabriel and Carmen Giampetruzzi has been leading the way all season for the Trinity High boys basketball team. They're both candidates for first team all-state and Player of the Year for a Pioneers squad that went 17-1 in the regular season and made it to the Final Four at UNH for the third year in a row.
Their strong play continued on Tuesday night in the Division I semi-finals, as Gabriel had a game-high 26 points and 14 rebounds (including 12 offensive boards) and 'G' poured in 17 points and 10 rebounds (plus 3 steals). Trinity won despite the fact that they missed a ton of FT's late, and fouled a Nashua South player in the act of shooting a 3-pointer TWICE...in the last 20 seconds!
However, South made just 2 of those 6 free throw attempts, and the Pioneers held on for the 60-58 victory.
"We knew we had one foul to waste" said Trinity head coach. "But we got too close. We'll have to have a talk about that."
South had the ball with 20 seconds left, down 60-56. They got the ball to their bst 3-point shooter, David Dunham. Dunham was fouled on the attempt, and the shot was THIS close to going in. Instead he went to the line with a chance to cut the lead to just 1. Dunham made just 1 of the 3 shots, so it was 60-57 Trinity. The Pioneers are immediately fouled, and Gabriel misses both of his FT's. Gabriel went just 10/20 at the line, but every time he was at the charity stripe the South student section chanted "USA, USA" at him. Gabriel is from Africa, so it is understandable if he got a little rattled by this. The chant was out of line.
So now the Purple Panthers get the ball back, still down 60-57. Just 10 seconds left. Dunham gets a good look at a 3, but it's no good. South guard Vicent Ortolono (who hit a big 3 in the 3rd quarter) grabs the rebound and brings it back out to the 3-point line to line up another. Shot no good, but he is fouled by Trinity guard Ryan Otis.
With just 1.2 seconds left Ortolono steps to the line for 3 shots with a chance to to it up if he makes all 3 - no pressure! The first shot is no good but he makes the second one. So now the best chance for South is for Ortolono to miss the third shot on purpose, hope for a short rebound that goes to a South player so they can catch and shoot it.
The rebound goes longo though, and Trinity grabs it. The buzzer sounds and the Pioneers win it 60-58. Trinity escapes with the win, and it's a heartbreaking loss for a very good South team. Trinity will meet Bishop Guertin in the D-I finals on Saturday. The same 2 schools met in the 2011 title game, when BG came away with a win.
"I think it's great that the catholic schools are in it again" said Trinity head coach Dave Keefe. "It's another opportunity for Trinity to win a Division I championship."
The game's peak was in the 3rd quarter, when it was back-and-forth, fast paced action and the game being played at a high level. It was big shot after big shot being made by both teams, and the crowd really got into it. Trinity was up 30-23 at halftime (the Pioneers led by as many as 10 in the 1st half when it was 23-13). In the 3rd quarter though, South quckly got back in the game, led by the strong play of junior point guard Tim Preston. Preston drove baseline but was met by Gabriel at the rim. He then made a great reverse layup finish. Then on the next time down the floorn he pushed it quickly on the break before bouncing it over to his big brother Jack Preston who scored his first 2 points of the game on an emphatic slam dunk.
Tim Preston then hit a floater in the lane as South continued to build momentum. Giampatruzzi answered right back with a strong drive to the rim and finish. Dunham and Tim Preston countered with a couple of quick buckets back the other way as the pace was really picking up. South was still down though, 34-33.
Tim Preston answered right back after 'G' hit his shot, going hard to the bucket, getting in the lane with a smooth crossover and then banking in a leaner plus the foul. That gave South a 36-35 lead.
"In my eyes he is the bst point guard in Division I basketball" Coach Keefe said about Preston. "Going in we knew he would have the ball 80% of the time, but he's just so quick."
Trinity came right back though, as Giampetruzzi again drove strong to the rim for a tough finish. You simply cannot let him go left! That put the Pioneers back in front, 37-36 with 3:00 left in the 3rd quarter.
Back and forth we went, as South guard Cam Joyal made a good dish inside to Nick Penkala for a shot in close. They teams continued to trade big shots, as right back on the other end Trinity got it inside to Gabriel for 2 more points to make it 40-38 Trinity.
South answered right back, as Penkala missed a shot inside but got his own rebound and put it back in to tie it back up 40-40. Then Ortolono put South back on top 43-40 with a big 3-pointer. Only a few seconds after that Trinity guard Brad Rhoades answered right back with a wide open 3 out of the corner and we were tied right back up 43-43. That was quite the offensive flurry to end that 3rd quarter, fun basketball to watch!
Gabriel was a man among boys in the 1st quarter. He had a whopping 16 points and 5 rebounds in the quarter, including a pair of big time dunks. He definitely looked like a potential D-II college player out there. Gabriel scored inside off a good entry pass by Giampetruzzi, then in the half court he slammed down a strong 1 handed dunk off a good dish by Otis.
Tim Preston answered back with a couple of nice buckets to knot the score at 8-8. But then Gabriel again came up big, as Trinity got the ball to him on the break. Gabriel went all the way to the rim, leaving his defender Jack Preston in the dust. Gabriel finished with a layup, and then the next time down the floor he went up strong with it after grabbing an offensive rebound for an and-1 finish. That gave Trinity a 13-8 lead with 3:00 to go in the 1st quarter.
Around that time the fouls were South 8, Trinity 0. Yikes! It was the same story in the 2nd half, as late in the game South was whistled for 10 fouls and Trinity had just 4. The discrepancy in fouls was definitely a factor in the outcome of this game.
Dunham answered with a 3-pointer for South to cut the Pioneer's lead to 13-11, but then Giampetruzzi came right back with a strong drive baseline for an and-1 of his own. Then the 'Mabor Show' continued, as Trinity got a steal, and Gabriel slammed down a thunderous 1 handed dunk, posterizing the defender who went up to contest the shot. That sent the Trinity faithful into a frenzy, South called a timeout and the Pioneers were all pumped up as they headed to their bench.
"We're not losing this game, that's all I was thinking" said Gabriel, whose older sister Karima is currently playing for Boston College and his younger brother Wenyin is a starting wing for Trinity as a sophomore. "It was a fight till the end. It was all about who wanted it more."
It was clear though that both teams wanted it pretty bad. They continued to exchange the lead in the 4th quarter. Gabriel went inside for 2 off a good dish by 'G', putting Trinity up 45-43. South came right back, and again it was Tim Preston with a big and-1 bucket. South was still down 465-45 though, but then the next trip down Preston bulled his way to the bucket scoring on Rhoades inside to put the Purple Panthers back in the lead 47-46 with 6:15 left in regulation. This far, you couldn't have asked for a better semi-final game.
Trinity got the lead right back, as Gabriel rebounded his own miss and put it back in. Both of the Gabriel brothers were really working hard on the boards. They both have good length and were very active in the paint.
"I know he's crashing with me all the time" said Mabor with a smile.
Joyal answered back, hitting a big 3-pointer to once again put South back in the lead 50-48. The lead changed continued, as Wenyin Gabriel made a strong drive on the left side and finish in traffic to cut the Purple Panthers' lead to 51-50. Then after South missed a shot, Trinity pushed it quickly bac up the floor. Otis hit a foul line jumper and the Pioneers were back in the lead, 52-51 with 4:21 remaining. It was going down to the wire!
Jack Preston was finally able to score inside on Gabriel (Mabor outscored him for the game 26-5 though) off an offensive rebound. That tied it up 53-53 with 3:10 left in the game. Gabriel answered right back with a smooth post move - an up-and-under, keeping his pivot foot and faking the defender out for an and-1 finish. Not only that, but it was Jack Preston's 4th foul.
After a South missed shot, Trinity again looked to break. Giampetruzzi drilled a mid-range jumper to put the Pioneers up 57053. It was there first time since early in the 3rd quarter that it was a 2 possession game. Still, there was plenty of time left.
The intensity picked up even more as both teams played their hearts out. Unfortunately for South, Jack Preston fouled out as Mabor Gabriel went up for a shot inside. The bad news for South was he fouled out, the good news is Gabriel missed both FT's (South students were making the disrespectful chant at him).
With his brother fouled out, Tim Preston knew he had to step it up even more. He made a great move off the bounce to shake his defender, get in the lane and hit a tough leaner, and-1. Just like that it was only a 1 point game, 57-56 Trinity with 1:30 left. Tim Preston ended up with a team-high 22 points, 4 assists and 4 steals.
Patrick Keefe hit a pait of free throws to make it 59-56 Trinity with 1:12 remaining. South got it to Dunham for a 3-point attempt but it was no good with 40 seconds left. After another FT by Trinity it was 60-56 and well, you know the rest.
2 Very good teams, but Trinity was just a little better. The key stat in addition to the foul difference (South commited 25 fouls compared to just 10 for Trinity) was the rebounding battle. Trinity outrebounded South 39-28. With the front line of Mabor Gabriel (6-foot-7), Wenyin Gabriel (6-foot-5) and Giampetruzzi (6-foot-3), Trinity was just too big for South's front line of Jack Preston (6-foot-5), Dunham (6-foot-3) and Trevor Knight (6-foot). When you're giving up at least 2 inches at every position you really need to focus on boxing out, and South just didn't do that well enough. Give Trinity credit for going hard after those boards, though. They would grab the rebounds, and with South out of position they were forced to foul to prevent easy baskets. That's why there was such a discrepancy in the rebound and foul totals between the 2 teams.
On Saturday, Trinity will try to get revenge on B for beating them in the finals 2 years ago. The Pioneers will also be going for their first title since Jordan Laguerre put on an absolute show against Memorial back in 2009.