The Dominion Post  

Banner night for Bennett in first start for Trinity

Created on:   Thu, Jan 4, 2018   8:52 PM

Last modified:   Thu, Jan 4, 2018   8:52 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Trinity Christian junior basketball player Briston Bennett is used to pressure. He traveled with his squad to the state Class A golf championships this fall, and even though his team finished last, it was an experience that helped develop him as an athlete.

Maybe that experience played a part in why his first varsity basketball start went so well. He paced the Warriors with 14 points in a 72-45 win over Madonna, on Dec. 30.

“Last year, as a sophomore, I got the privilege to get a lot of minutes off the bench,” Bennett said. “This year, I kept working, and when I got the opportunity to start, I just took advantage of it and did the best I could with it.”

The double-digit performance, which took place in front of hundreds of fans on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University during a holiday tournament, left many fans impressed. However, no one was likely as impressed as Trinity head coach John Fowkes, who has seen a lot of disastrous first starts in his day.

“It was very impressive,” Fowkes said. “Most kids in their first start are a nervous wreck, come out and air ball some shots, and you’re ready to get them out of there. I didn’t see any nerves from him.”

Perhaps even more important was that his performance provided a spark for the Warriors in a close contest and helped lead them out of a tight situation.

“It was 14-14 at the end of the first quarter, and without him out there, who knows what would have happened?” Fowkes said.

The road to the starting five was never easy for Bennett, though, and he emphasized the work that it took to take his place in the lineup.

“It’s just consistent work every day, getting in the gym, getting up shots. It’s focusing during practice, and giving it everything you have,” Bennett said.

“He’s put in all the offseason work, he’s living in the weight room,” Fowkes said. “We’ve got maybe the best trainers in the state; we’re affiliated with Viking Performance. All of our guys have made some serious gains under them, but Briston is the guy who has made the most gains in the weight room.”

Fowkes said he first saw the potential for Bennett to start during fall practices, where he showed up and made his mark quickly and emphatically.

“It happened during our flex practices,” Fowkes said. “I like to use them in September and October, and he came in here and was knocking down shots and moving up and down the court, and that’s when we took notice that he was kind of ready.”

As any coach worth his or her salt will tell you, though, skill isn’t the only asset that is required of a top ball player, and Bennett proved to Fowkes and the coaching staff at Trinity that he has attitude and work ethic to match his talent.

“He earned the right to start, and he ran with it,” Fowkes said. “Some kids sit on the bench and pout about sitting on the bench, but he’s not like that. He always says, ‘I’m ready when you need me.’ That’s a special kid right there, with that attitude.”

And special indeed did Bennett prove to be, as he took the hardwood in Wheeling by storm and proved his basketball prowess. He was perfect from the floor in the performance, and patrolled both ends of the floor with the footwork and court savvy of a 1,000 point scorer. If you ask Bennett, though, he’ll give most of the credit to his teammates.

“It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it,” he said. “But I think that basketball is a team sport, and we’ve got to focus on the team aspect.

“We got the win against Madonna, and I led the team in scoring, and that’s great and all, but our goal that weekend was to beat (Wheeling) Central, and we didn’t get the job done.”

He and the Warriors will have another shot, as Wheeling Central visits Trinity on Jan. 31. It’s one of many high profile games left on the slate for the Warriors, including a road trip to defending Class A state champion Clarksburg Notre Dame today, with the tip-off scheduled at 7:30 p.m.

Regardless of how Bennett and his teammates perform individually, it’s clear the credit always goes to the team effort.

“My teammates did a great job,” Bennett said of the Madonna game. “By no means was it just my work. This is a team effort.”