No need for four-leaf clovers for these Shamrocks in the 95th PNC/KHSAA Boys' State Basketball Tournament.
The St. Patrick's Day finals went to the top-rated team in the state as Trinity whipped No. 2 Scott County 71-53 in front of a crowd of 14,064 in Rupp Arena Saturday night.
Playing in the Sweet Sixteen for only the second time in school history, the 'Rocks won their first three games of the tourney by 20 points, 23 and nine.
Trinity is the first school to win Kentucky state titles in football and basketball in the same school year, with both titles coming against Scott County. Trinity routed the Cardinals 62-21 for the 6A football title.
Tournament MVP Nathan Dieudonne, a 6-foot-7 Boston University recruit, finished his high school career with a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
As for the pressure of being No. 1, Dieudonne said, "I don't think we really felt it. We really just embraced it."
Charles Foster, a 6-1 senior bound for Morehead State, led Shamrock scorers with 18 points. Darryl Hicks and Troy Saxton each scored 13. James Quick, the highly regarded football receiver and state track champion, scored 10.
Trinity shot 24-for-38 (63.2 percent) from the field, including 9-for-14 from three-point range, and made 14 of 18 free throws.
Scott County got 28 points and five rebounds from 6-4 Tamron Manning, the Marshall recruit. Isaiah Ivey had 10 points.
But the Cardinals couldn't match Trinity's accuracy, going 16-for-33 (48.5 percent), 4-for-6 from three-point range and 17 of 24 at the foul line.
"I just really felt like we won the game defensively, and they really struggled trying to get open looks," Trinity Coach Mike Szabo said. "And that's what it's all about — getting stops. ... Defense has carried us all season."
Just as happened a week earlier in the Girls' State Tournament, the No. 1 team in the state beat No. 2 for the title. (Manual defeated Marion County in the girls' finals.)
Trinity capped a 35-3 season that includes a 90-77 win at Scott County on Dec. 8. The win was its 18th in a row and 30th in 31 games.
The Shamrocks' only loss to a Kentucky team this season came in January, 78-77 to Madison Central.
Trinity is only the fourth private school in 50 years to win the state title, joining St. Xavier (1962), University Heights (1992) and Lexington Catholic (2002). It is the first 7th Region team to win since Jeffersontown in 2006.
Billy Hicks, with 815 career wins the leader among active coaches in Kentucky, had Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen for the ninth time in 18 years. The Cardinals won it all in 1998 and 2007, and were runner-up to Ballard in 1999.
Scott County (34-5) had won 13 in a row and 27 of 28 games coming into the finals.
"Trinity really shot the ball. ... They hurt us in the first half," Hicks said. "We just couldn't make a shot. We're the No. 1 free-throw shooting team in the state and we couldn't make free throws. I love our basketball team. I still do. The kids battled. We just didn't have it.
"Trinity's strong, they're physical, they're quick. And the big kid (Dieudonne), golly, you've got to have a heck of an effort, catch him on a bad night."
Scott County led by six early and was up 12-10 through one quarter. All but the first two of the Cards' points came from Manning.
Trinity caught up and took its first lead, 16-15, when Foster hopped through the lane and scored with a little less than 5½ minutes left in the half.
A Manning free throw tied it, but Trinity outscored the Cardinals 15-4 to take a 31-20 lead at halftime.
That stretch began with consecutive three-pointers by Saxton, Foster and, once more, Foster. After two points each by Andrew Perito and Dieudonne, Saxton capped the first-half scoring with a drive down the lane.
"When we were up 11 and going into halftime, we had it," Foster said. "We just didn't ever give up."
The closest Scott came in the second half was 10, 43-33, late in the third quarter.
Leading 52-38 early in the fourth, Trinity put the game out of reach with a 10-0 run to make it 62-38 with 4:55 left.
"Intensity," was the key, said Saxton, who will play for Alabama-Huntsville next season. "We just really picked it up on the defensive end, especially in the second half, and we put them away."
MVP — Nathan Dieudonne (Trinity). All-tournament team — Tyler Thacker (Rowan Co.); Adam Fatkin (Clark Co.); Zack Davis (Knott Co. Central); Brandon Price (John Hardin); David Kapinga and Justin Edwards (Southwestern); Tyler Wesley and Sam Gruber (Oldham Co.); Isaiah Ivey, Tamron Manning and Quin Richardson (Scott Co.); Charles Foster, Troy Saxton and Dieudonne (Trinity). Ted Sanford Award — Davis (Knott Co. Central). Academic scholarships — James Chaffin (Johnson Central); Zane McQueary (Boone Co.); Chase Buchanan (Marshall Co.). Sportsmanship — Andrew Perito (Trinity). Leadership — Josh Harris (Scott Co.). Larry Conley Ultimate Teammate — Davis (Knott Co. Central).