High school notebook: Physical play robs Sweet Sixteen of finesse, fun

Herald-Leader Staff writerMarch 22, 2012 

KHSAA Chip

Trinity beat Scott County in the title game of the state tournament at Rupp Arena. The Shamrocks were dominant, winning four games by an average of 17.5 points per game.

JONATHAN PALMER — Herald-Leader

Rupp Arena was a fairly quiet place last week, not a good thing considering the 95th PNC/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen was going on.

It was the dullest state basketball tournament I've witnessed in the last 37 years. Absolutely zero electricity in the big house. The loudest cheer during the four-day hoopfest came Friday night when it was announced that Duke had lost to Lehigh.

There was only one close game in Rupp, and it wasn't pretty to watch. Oldham County edged Knott County Central 36-34 as the teams missed 44 of 63 shots. It was the fewest points scored by a winning team in the Sweet Sixteen since Henry Clay beat Carlisle County 35-33 in triple-overtime in the 1983 championship game.

Trinity proved convincingly that it was the best team as it won four games by an average of 17.5 points. The Rocks shot the rock well — 49 percent, including 46 percent from three-point range. The other 15 teams shot a combined 39 percent, including 29 percent on threes.

It was torture to watch teams struggle to get 20 points in a half. There were 35 quarters in which a team scored in single digits.

A total of 1,516 points were scored in the tournament, the fewest in more than 50 years. The week before in Bowling Green, the Sweet Sixteen girls' teams scored 174 more points, and hit 98 more shots.

One consistent complaint from coaches, fans (and media) was that the play in Rupp was way too physical. Hand-checking and shoving have eliminated the finesse from the games and given defenses a huge advantage.

Oh, what I'd give to see a free-flowing, up-and-down 85-83 shootout. I don't even fantasize about anybody scoring 100. It's been 15 years since a team hit the century mark in the Sweet Sixteen. (Corbin outgunned Trigg County 105-84 in 1997.) Only five teams have scored 90 points in the last 15 years. Pretty depressing stuff.

■ Trinity Coach Mike Szabo got a congratulatory message from former Lexington Catholic coach Danny Haney, who's been in Florida for the past 10 years. Back in 2001, Szabo was coaching at Fort Worth Country Day in Texas when he saw on the Internet that Trinity was looking for a coach. Szabo called Haney, whom he had met when Szabo was an assistant coach at Northwestern University, to see if the job was worth pursuing. Haney told Szabo to jump at the chance to build the Shamrocks into a state basketball power. Haney led Lexington Catholic to the Sweet Sixteen the next winter. Ten years later, Szabo led Trinity to the top.

■ Trinity graduates stars Nathan Dieudonne, Charles Foster and Troy Saxton, but it returns junior standouts Darryl Hicks and James Quick, and top reserves Miles Rice, Demarcus Page and Craig Owens. The Rocks' schedule next season will include the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. That's the same week as Lexington Catholic's Republic Bank Holiday Classic, so Trinity won't be back to defend its title in that tournament. The Rocks' 2012-13 schedule also features a trip to the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic at Montgomery County in January against an opponent to be named; a Feb. 1 home game against Madison Central, the only Kentucky team to beat Trinity this season; and a Feb. 2 game against Henry Clay in the Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette. Trinity visits Lafayette on Feb. 8 for a game against the Generals.

■ The state tournament did have some nice moments, including the smile on the face of Southwestern's 6-foot-4, 270-pound football player Robby Lewis after he swished a three-pointer with :02 left against Trinity to make it a nine-point final margin, and the smile on the face of Rowan County Coach Shawn Thacker as he talked about his son Tyler scoring 25 points in a first-round win over North Laurel.

■ Sweet Sixteen statistical leaders included Trinity's Nathan Dieudonne for points (70) and rebounds (33), James Quick for assists (12) and Charles Foster for three-pointers (10); Southwestern's David Kapinga for steals (10), and Oldham County's Tyler Wesley for blocked shots (eight).

■ Ballard (led by Quentin Snider), Bullitt East (led by Derek Willis) and Madison Central (led by Dominique Hawkins) would be among my top five teams next pre-season. I'll wait to see how the off-season transfer games go to pick the other two teams.

■ Manual's girls and Trinity's boys took home the championship trophies, marking the third time Louisville teams have swept the basketball titles in the same year. Southern's girls and Ballard's boys won in 1988. Butler's girls and Male's boys were champs in 1975.

■ It's a good thing the championship game wasn't close. Midway through the second half, Scott County's Tamron Manning missed two free throws, but the official scorer (and scoreboard) credited him with making one. Trinity already had a double-digit lead, so it didn't have an impact on the game, fortunately.

■ Trinity's state title gives Louisville schools 20 Sweet Sixteen championships since 1960. They've also been second 14 times. That adds up to 34 title-game appearances in the last 52 years. Pretty impressive.

■ Trinity had its three-point shooting mojo in Rupp Arena. The Rocks set a state tournament record with 33 threes, eclipsing the mark of 32 set by Mason County (with Chris Lofton) in 2003. Trinity was 33-for-72 (46 percent) from long range, led by Nathan Dieudonne (7-for-9) and Charles Foster (10-for-19).

■ Rowan County senior star Adam Wing, who hit 12 of 13 three-pointers in last year's Sweet Sixteen semifinals and finals, had a miserable time finding the hoop last week. He missed his first 11 three-point tries before finally making one. Wing was a stand-up guy afterward. The Evansville signee said he was disappointed in his performance and felt he had let his team down. History will be kind to Wing. He'll always be remembered for his scintillating performance in the 2011 Sweet Sixteen when he led Rowan County to a state second-place finish, not his struggles this time around.

■ The boys' Sweet Sixteen will be earlier next year — March 6-9 — with Rupp Arena hosting NCAA Tournament games the following week. The girls' 2013 Sweet Sixteen will be March 13-16 in Bowling Green.

■ Scott County's three wins in the Sweet Sixteen increased Billy Hicks' state tournament victory total to 20. That's second on the all-time list behind Dale Mabrey of Pleasure Ridge Park, who has 22 wins.

■ Tony Wise, who guided Montgomery County's boys to a 23-11 record in his first season as coach, resigned after being told by Athletics Director Gene Heffington that the program needed to go in a different direction. "Honestly, I had no clue this was coming," said Wise, who previously coached at Frankfort, and in Florida for eight years.

■ Somerset is looking for new coaches for its boys' and girls' basketball programs. The Commonwealth-Journal reported that Don Daniel resigned as boys' coach with a four-year record of 36-72, and Chris Adkins resigned as girls' coach with a six-year record of 83-75.

■ Tryouts for the Kentucky All-Stars will be held at Georgetown College — the girls on April 21 and the boys on April 22. The Kentucky-Indiana games will be played June 8 in Louisville and June 9 in Indianapolis.

■ Woodford County junior pitcher Clint Hollon is rated the No. 1 baseball prospect in the nation in the Class of 2013 by MaxPreps. Hollon, a right-hander whose fastball topped 96 mph last spring, has committed to UK. He pitched as an eighth-grader and freshman at Lafayette, but transferred to Woodford County for his sophomore season. He was back at Lafayette to start this school year before returning to Woodford County. Wolfe County junior catcher Dylan Creech is the only other Kentuckian among MaxPreps' Fab 50 at No. 41.

■ Glasgow beat defending state baseball champ Central Hardin on Tuesday, giving Coach Sam Royse his 600th career win. He's in his 28th season with the Scotties.

■ Former Tates Creek swimmer Kelsey Floyd, now a standout at Tennessee, finished third in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly at last week's NCAA championships. Last month she won the 200-yard butterfly in the Southeastern Conference championships, and was part of UT's record-setting 200- and 400-yard medley relays.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Email: mfields@herald-leader.Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com

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