No. 1 Louisville Trinity's No. 1 priority in every basketball game is to play defense with relentless fury from the opening tip to the final horn.
Coach Mike Szabo had no complaints in the defense department after the Shamrocks rocked Bullitt East 52-32 before a crowd of 15,107 during the first round of the 95th PNC/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen on Wednesday night in Rupp Arena.
Trinity limited the Chargers to 25 percent shooting (11-for-44), forced them into 16 turnovers and held them to their lowest point total in seven years.
The Rocks focused on Bullitt East star Derek Willis, who has committed to Kentucky. The 6-foot-9 junior, hounded by rotating defenders (mainly James Quick, Demarcus Page and Craig Owens), missed 12 of 15 shots and had eight turnovers. He did grab 13 rebounds.
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"We wanted to make it very difficult for him," Szabo said. "We wanted to bang him around, push him, get up into him, make him bounce it and make sure he didn't get offensive rebounds.
"I thought everybody who played him did a super job."
Bullitt East Coach Troy Barr thought Trinity got away with a being a little too physical with his big man.
"I think there's a different set of rules for Derek right now. I think he gets beat on more than other people do. But," Barr added, "Trinity's a great team and will probably win the state championship. Even if the (referees) had called some of the fouls, I don't know if we could've beat them the way they shot the ball in the second half.
"We just got mentally drained."
Bullitt East's defense was terrific in the first half. It helped the Chargers build a 14-8 lead early in the second quarter. Nathan Dieudonne had all of Trinity's points while his teammates were 0-for-11 from the field.
But Miles Rice came off the bench and had five quick points to rally the Rocks into a 16-16 halftime tie.
Trinity got its offense clicking in the second half.
"I knew we'd come out and start making some points. I wasn't worried about that," Dieudonne said. "We just had to keep playing great defense till our shots started falling."
Trinity broke away with an 11-0 run, fueled by a pair of three-pointers by Rice, that made it 37-24 early in the fourth quarter.
Dieudonne, a 6-7 senior who has signed with Boston University, led the Rocks with 17 points and six rebounds. Charles Foster, who's headed to Morehead State, had 15 points and nine rebounds. Rice, a junior, had 11 points.
It didn't matter that junior standouts Quick and Darryl Hicks were a combined 0-for-11 from the field.
"Team, team," Szabo said, stressing depth as one of Trinity's best assets. "We had a couple guys kind of struggle tonight offensively. No big deal. Somebody else comes in and picks up the slack. Guys come off the bench and get things done."
It didn't matter, either, that Trinity had its lowest point total this season. It still won its 15th consecutive game going away. "We got it done with defense tonight," Szabo said.
Bullitt East was led in scoring by junior Rusty Troutman's 12 points. Junior point guard Trey Rakes added five.
Barr said Trinity simply had too many weapons.
"They've got guys on the bench who'd start for most teams," he said. "You've got to pick your poison with them. If one or two of those other guys are on like tonight, they can be really dangerous."