Nearly 50 points from Darius Williams and Taveion Hollingsworth and a plus-20 advantage on the glass proved to be a lethal combination for Paul Laurence Dunbar as it defeated Trinity 71-60 in the finals of the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic.
The Bulldogs’ star duo took turns dealing damage to the Shamrocks. Williams scored 18 of his 20 on 8-for-8 shooting in the first half. Hollingsworth came away with 19 of his 28 in the second half, including 11 in the third to help Dunbar maintain an edge as Trinity chipped into its lead.
Williams, who had six rebounds, was named MVP after an emotional win for the Bulldogs (13-2). They fell to Trinity, 81-70, on Dec. 21 in the King of the Bluegrass quarterfinals.
“We didn’t use our heads the first time we played them,” Williams said. “They had the crowd, we were in The Ville.”
This time around the Bulldogs had the crowd and did more than use their heads; they positioned their bodies to punish Trinity on the boards, 37-17, something that didn’t happen much when the two met a little over a week ago. Dontell Brown and Justin Kelley led the effort with seven rebounds apiece.
“Every time we’d make a run against them the first time, we couldn’t get a second shot,” Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk said. “Or they’d get a second shot and put one back in. We’d just think we had our stop and we didn’t get it. Tonight we finished those shots and got rebounds and that was a big difference.”
Dunbar had just an 11-5 advantage in second-chance points, but it came up with extra chances when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. Trinity took a brief lead, its first of the game, on a three-pointer by Gabe Schmitt with just over two minutes left. From there Dunbar outscored the Shamrocks 11-1, forcing tough shots and extending their own possessions.
“We just kept working and never gave up,” Hollingsworth said. “Last time we gave up.”
Hollingsworth didn’t mince words when describing the offensive mindset Dunbar takes to the floor. It connected on 53.7-percent of its shots compared to 39.2 percent for Trinity
“If they can’t guard me, they can’t guard me,” Hollingsworth said. “So I just keep going. Same for the whole team. If somebody’s hot, keep giving them the ball.”
Trinity overcame an 38-30 halftime deficit thanks to its marksmanship from beyond the arc. Four three-pointers in the third quarter trimmed Dunbar’s lead to 52-51 before Hollingsworth hit a jumper as time expired. Schmitt’s shot in the final quarter was the Shamrocks’ seventh and final three of the half.
“After the first time, we realized that everybody on their team can shoot it well, so we couldn’t be trapping and doing that,” Chalk said. “We had to play straight most of the time so they didn’t have a lot of open guys. They really bought into that and we had much better respect for all their shooters.”
While the Shamrocks ended 13-for-23 beyond the arc, they were only 7-for-28 from elsewhere on the floor.
Trinity Coach Mike Szabo said accounting for three guys — including Bulldogs point guard Jordan Lewis — on the perimeter who can take defenders off the bounce is difficult.
“If you stay home on one or two of ’em, then you have no help,” Szabo said. “And then you’re really on an island defensively.”
Williams said the win feels good, but the team won’t get caught up in it. He foresees a round three, which would have to happen in the Sweet Sixteen.
“It feels good but we know we’re gonna see them again down the road,” Williams said.
Chalk agreed that it could happen.
“I think (Trinity’s) got a great chance to be there, I do,” Chalk said. “I think they’re a super team and will recover. ... And it ain’t gonna be easy, but we got a chance.”
Paul Laurence Dunbar 71, Trinity 60
Dunbar (13-2) — Lewis 5, Brown 7, Hollingsworth 28, Kelley 9, Clark 2, Williams 20.
Trinity (12-2) — J. King 21, Burton 8, Schmitt 10, Harris 4, Terry 3, Burkman 14..