High School Basketball

Mike Fields: Hype justified for high school state champ Trinity

Trinity defeated Scott County to win the 2012 PNC/KHSAA Boys' Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament Saturday, March 17, 2012 in Lexington at Rupp Arena. The final score was 71-53. Photo by Jonathan Palmer
Trinity defeated Scott County to win the 2012 PNC/KHSAA Boys' Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament Saturday, March 17, 2012 in Lexington at Rupp Arena. The final score was 71-53. Photo by Jonathan Palmer Herald-Leader

Trinity's Shamrocks laid claim to the pot o' gold at the end of the Sweet Sixteen rainbow, and it had nothing to do with the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

Trinity won its first state basketball title by whipping Scott County 71-53 in the finals of the 95th PNC/KHSAA State Tournament in front of 14,064 fans in Rupp Arena on Saturday night.

The Rocks rolled to their 35th victory over the season not because of luck, but because of talent, coaching, teamwork and defense.

In doing so, Trinity became the first school to win state football and basketball titles in the same school year since a football playoff system was adopted in 1959.

As the Shamrocks hugged and high-fived under a shower of confetti, Coach Mike Szabo fought back tears. "This is awesome," he said. "This is what it's all about, seeing these guys celebrate. Gosh, this is why you do what you do, this is why you coach."

Trinity was an overwhelming No. 1 when the season began, but the burden of expectations never seem to faze them.

The Rocks won two prestigious regular-season tournaments (Lexington Catholic's Republic Bank Holiday Classic, and the Louisville Invitational Tournament) in dominating style. Their only hiccup against in-state competition was a one-point loss to Madison Central.

After that, they reeled off 18 consecutive victories to take the state title.

"That's neat, isn't it?" Szabo said. "Going out every night with that target on your back. That makes it even better."

Senior star and Sweet Sixteen MVP Nathan Dieudonne said Trinity didn't feel any pressure of being prohibitive favorites to win the championship. "We just embraced it. Instead of laying back and thinking we were No. 1, every day in practice we said we're not good enough, and we kept working to get better."

It's hard to imagine T rinity getting any better than how they played against Scott County. All five starters were in double figures. The Rocks shot the rock with 63 percent accuracy, including 9-for-14 on three-pointers.

The Trinity defense was its usual suffocating self. Scott County star Tamron Manning made nine of 14 shots and rang up 28 points in a terrific finale, but the rest of the Cards were a combined 7-for-19.

Scott County Coach Billy Hicks, who was denied his third state title, knew his Cardinals faced a tall task in the finals. "Trinity's a pretty tough team to play in your third game in 24 hours," he said. "They're strong, physical and quick. To beat them, you've gotta have a heck of an effort and catch them on a bad night."

Trinity's lineup included three college-bound players in Dieudonne (Boston University), Charles Foster (Morehead State) and Troy Saxton (Alabama-Huntsville), and a Division I prospect in junior Darryl Hicks.

Facing that kind of talent is kind of like facing Trinity's football team.

Scott County also knows what that's like. In early December, Trinity routed the Cardinals 62-21 in the Class 6A football finals for its 21st state title in that sport.

Saturday night, the Rocks rocked their own state championship performance over Scott County.

Dieudonne was asked what it was like to finally win a basketball title at a football school. "I don't really think it's just a football school anymore," he said with a smile. "We've got a great football team and a great basketball team this year. We'll try to continue that tradition now."

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