Sweet Sixteen: Trinity controls Hopkinsville to advance to semis

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 21, 2014 

Trinity didn't just shoot its way into the semifinals, it bounded in at just the right speed.

The Shamrocks dominated both shooting and rebounding, controlling the tempo while throttling Hopkinsville 74-56 Friday in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen.

"Just a tremendous team effort," Coach Mike Szabo said. "Balanced scoring. Great defense. Super job rebounding the ball. Excellent job making free throws.

"We knew that we were playing a great team. Hopkinsville had a great season and they're an excellent ball club. Very, very happy, very proud of these young men for stepping up. They came in today very focused. I thought we played extremely tough. They just really dialed in today."

Trinity (31-5), which won the 2012 state tourney and is the highest-rated team in this one, advances to Saturday's semifinals in Rupp Arena against Scott County.

No. 3 Hopkinsville (31-3), in the Sweet Sixteen for a third year in a row, finished 28-1 against in-state teams.

"Let's give them credit," Tigers Coach Tim Haworth said. "I thought they played an exceptional game. I think their length really bothered us around the rim. We missed eight or nine layups in the first half, and we missed quite a few free throws. In a game like this, you've got to make your layups and your free throws."

Ray Spalding and Jax Levitch led a balanced Trinity scoring attack with 14 points each. Spalding, a 6-foot-9 junior, also had seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and five blocks.

Trey Ivory, Daniel Ramser, Christian Thieneman and Michael Stafford scored nine points each. Craig Owens grabbed 10 rebounds and scored four points.

The Shamrocks made 22 of 39 field goals (56.4 percent), while holding Hoptown to 17 of 56 (30.4 percent). They also outrebounded the Tigers 33-22.

"We talked about gang rebounding," Szabo said. "All five guys help rebound the ball."

Trinity led 36-27 at halftime, getting a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Gabriel Schmitt.

The Shamrocks used a 10-0 run early in the second quarter to break open a 17-all tie.

Levitch fueled the uprising with back-to-back three-pointers. Stafford and Spalding added two free throws each.

"My teammates did a great job of penetrating and finding me open," Levitch said. "I just got to the right spot and knocked it down."

Trinity opened the second half with an 11-6 spurt to increase the lead to 47-33, and led 53-39 through three quarters.

Erasing any doubts, the Shamrocks scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to lead 61-39, punctuated by a Spalding dunk.

Hopkinsville used its quickness to force 20 turnovers to Trinity's eight, which converted into a 28-13 points advantage. But the pressure wasn't nearly enough, and Trinity controlled the tempo.

"I think that it starts with defense," Szabo said. "We make it difficult for teams to score. With that, possessions are going to be longer and that in itself will help control the tempo. ... None of these guys care about stats or numbers. We're just trying to find the best shot every time down, and I think those two things help control the tempo."

A tempo that has Trinity in the final four.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL.Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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