March 16th, 2012
Trinity Dominates Clark Co. In Sweet 16
Dieudonne's 25 lifts Trinity into semifinals of Sweet 16
With two starters disciplined and sitting out due to a violation of team rules, the Trinity Shamrocks stepped up, dug in and locked down the overmatched Clark County Cardinals in the quarterfinals of the PNC/KHSAA Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena early Friday afternoon.
Trinity senior Nathan Dieudonne, who was named a finalist for Mr. Basketball shortly before game time, put on a performance befitting his honor as he scored outside, inside and any which way he wanted. He shot 4-5 from three point range and was a sizzling 8-11 on his way to a game high 25 points.
Playing without junior starters Daryl Hicks and James Quick, Trinity head coach Mike Szabo asked every one of his players to contribute in their absence. And contribute they did.
To the tune of a 62-39 shellacking of the 10th region champion Cardinals.
Fill-in starters DeMarcus Page and Andrew Perito and seven other reserves combined for 11 points and 15 rebounds, but more importantly they all played stellar defense in limiting Clark County to just 12-34 shooting. And those 15 rebounds almost matched Clark County’s team total of 18.
“I’m so proud of our group,” beamed Szabo. “They really stepped up today. They played so hard and had each other’s back all night defensively. We did a great job of contesting shots and rebounding the ball. No question that that was the key.”
As the reserves stepped up to fill the voids, so too did Dieudonne with his shooting, rebounding and defensive presence. Every time Clark County tried to get back in the contest with a mini-run, Trinity’s Mr. Basketball candidate responded with a long-range jumper, a put-back slam or a fast break jam.
“He stepped up when we needed him most,” Szabo said of Dieudonne. “That’s what senior leaders are expected to do. And they (Saxton, Foster and Dieudonne) made it happen.”
Those three seniors combined to shoot 9-13 from beyond the arc and every one of those threes seemed to take out a little more of the fight from the outmanned Cardinals.
“Mr. Basketball was the last thing on my mind,” said Dieudonne. “I was just really focused all day because missing two starters is tough on a team. Me, Troy and Charles got together and stepped it up and I just happened to get hot shooting the three.”
The Shamrocks made 12 of 19 shots in the second half and that is what allowed them to put the game away. Szabo was a bit shocked at his team’s three point shooting, but felt that those shots generally came from good ball movement.
“That is outstanding,” said Szabo. “I thought we moved the ball well and found the open man and those were all pretty good looks.”
On par with the hot shooting performance was the defensive effort that limited Clark County to just 35 percent shooting.
“Everybody knows how to play (defense),” said Szabo. “We have fourteen guys at practice and we expect the same from the number fourteen player as we do the number one player. To be in a great position, to talk, to help, to contest, to block out. It’s fundamentals and these guys have embraced it. It’s hard work and tough doing that every day, but they take a lot of pride in it. There’s no question about it, defense wins championships.”
Clark County head coach Scott Humphrey pointed out that Trinity’s depth was the difference. That and their dead-eye outside shooting.
“I felt like we were hanging around and the whole deal was to fight, claw, scrap and get this thing to the fourth quarter,” Humphrey noted. “The threes, especially from Nate (Dieudonne), were just daggers. We wanted to make them a jump-shot shooting team and we thought we could live with that. For them to shoot 66 percent from three is very tough to overcome. Whenever we made a run, he stepped up and knocked one down.”
Their performance was a slow, steady burn from the even-keeled, business-like Shamrocks. They played like they knew how they were going to win. That no matter what Clark County attempted to do, the Shamrocks would have a superior response. And even though they missed Hicks and Quick, Szabo made sure that the decision to not play them, while tough, was clearly the right thing to do.
“Everybody knows their expectations,” Szabo stated. “Everybody’s expected to do the right thing. When you mess up there’s consequences just like in life. In athletics, we’re constantly teaching life lessons. It’s our job as adults to help these teenagers grow. But we’re not going to let something like that slow us down and get in our way.”
Trinity will play 28-8 Southwestern high school Saturday morning at 10am in the first semifinal of the PNC/KHSAA Sweet 16. Southwestern is making its first appearance in the Sweet 16.
- Trinity is now 33-3 on the season and riding a 16 game winning streak.
- Southwestern are winners of their last 9 games and defeated Rowan County 67-57 in their quarterfinal match-up. The Warriors have two of the state’s top sophomores in David Kapinga and Justin Edwards. They get scoring punch from seniors Cody and Justin Epperson as well.
- Both Hicks and Quick will be eligible to play in tomorrow’s game according to coach Szabo.
- This is the first time in school history that Trinity will play in the semifinals of the Sweet 16.