Region: 7th | Record: 29-5 | Enrollment: 1,269 (all boys) Coach's résumé
Mike Szabo is 291-113 in 13 years at Trinity, including a state title in 2012. He previously coached in New Hampshire, Tennessee and Texas. Starters
No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.
1 Tre Ivory 5-9 Sr. 10.2
33 Craig Owens 6-3 Sr. 8.7
35 Ray Spalding 6-9 Jr. 13.9
30 Michael Stafford 6-2 Jr. 7.3
13 Daniel Ramser 6-4 Jr. 5.9
They're b-a-a-a-ck. Two years after storming through the state tournament and winning the school's first basketball title, the Shamrocks knocked off No. 1 Ballard in the 7th Region finals to earn another trip to Rupp. "With what we just accomplished, we're so happy," Szabo said late last week. "We'll gear back up for the Sweet Sixteen. We're really excited to be part of it again." Trinity is rated the team to beat again, and their calling card is still their stifling defense. "We force teams to make more than three or four passes, make them really work to get a good shot," Szabo said. The Rocks have all the pieces of a championship contender. They're athletic, long, deep and tenacious on defense. And they've got shooters. Spalding is a force inside. Owens is a tough guy. Ivory is a heady senior point guard. Stafford, a combo guard, can shoot it. So can tall marksmen Ramser and Jax Levitch. Scraping past Ballard in the region finals left Trinity excited and exhausted.
Even though Trinity won the title just two seasons ago, this year's roster is thin on Sweet Sixteen experience. Ivory and Owens saw limited minutes as sophomores in the 2012 state tournament. Owens clocked 25 total minutes in four games and scored four points. Ivory played six minutes and also had four points.
Player to watch
Spalding is a hot recruiting topic and has offers from Butler, Clemson, Indiana, Vanderbilt, WKU and Xavier, among others. "He's progressed really well," Szabo said. "He playing harder, competing better. He's talented young man with an incredible upside." Spalding is averaging 10.5 rebounds and is a menace defensively.
This is the Shamrocks' third state tournament. They won the title in 2012, and lost to Mason County in three overtimes in the 2004 quarterfinals.
Region: 3rd | Record: 21-10 | Enrollment: 1,140 Coach's résumé
Rod Drake is 96-74 in six years as coach. He was a standout on Owensboro's 1980 state title team and played college hoops at Kentucky Wesleyan.
No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.
32 Aric Holman 6-6 Jr. 13.4
15 Darion Morrow 5-8 Jr. 11.3
21 Dylan Sanford 6-2 Jr. 9.6
55 Justin Miller 6-5 Jr. 17.9
24 Airius Phillips 5-10 Jr. 2.9
When Drake took over at Owensboro in 2009, the Red Devils had been to the Sweet Sixteen the previous two years under Wayne Breeden. Drake thought he was going to make it an Owensboro three-peat. He got the Devils to the region semifinals but they lost to Muhlenberg North 56-55. "I learned you can't take anything for granted," Drake said. Six years later, Owensboro is back in the Sweet Sixteen with an all-junior lineup. "This group has taken some knocks over the past few years. It's time for us to start knocking," Drake said. Holman and Miller are the top scorers and rebounders. Phillips is solid at the point. Morrow and Sanford are three-point threats. The Devils' defense has been terrific lately, especially against Ohio County in the region semifinals and Muhlenberg County in the finals.
Always a Devil
Drake, who played on Owensboro's 1980 state title team, told his players how important this week can be. "It's a life-changing experience," he said. "It changed my life, getting to play in college. People always remember you were in the state tournament." Drake still has ties to his former coaches, Bobby Watson and Randy Embry. He calls Embry his "Google" guy because he's always seeking answers from him.
Player to watch
Phillips, a standout defensive back in football, brings toughness to the point guard position. He doesn't score much, but he doesn't have to. He gets the ball to the right people in the right places. "He's just hard-nosed," Drake said. "And he's somebody everybody looks up to here. The student body, faculty, everybody."
The Red Devils are in the state tournament for a record 42nd time. They've won three titles (1949, 1972, 1980).
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.