MORGANTOWN — Trinity Christian has come down with a severe case of March Madness.
The Warriors are preparing for their first trip to the WVSSAC Class A State Basketball Championships in six years, and, according to head coach John Fowkes, it’s a “special time up on this hill.”
“The atmosphere has been great. The superintendent and school board voted to cancel school on Friday so the fans can come down and support us [March 15] at 9 p.m.,” he said. “That wowed us man. The kids think it’s cool, I think it’s cool.”
But it’s not just the administration that’s getting behind the state-bound squad. The entire community is pouring in support for the Warriors, who have sparked a fire of excitement at the school.
“The Trinity community, just so our kids experience a first class trip, the parents and the community came up with everything we need,” Fowkes said. “The kids are going to be able to go down there and not worry about anything except for playing basketball. We’re going to have a lot of people coming from that little school.”
To earn the ultimate prize, the Warriors will have to win three games in three days, while going through a gantlet of the toughest teams in the state. First up for Trinity will be Notre Dame, which handed three losses to the Warriors already this year.
“I think we have to play with the confidence we had the last two times we played them, and in the fourth quarter, play like we did in the first three and finish,” Fowkes said. “We can’t worry about what happened in the previous games.”
Notre Dame has done an exceptional job of doubling down on the post against the Warriors this year, working hard to keep junior Daniel Woods and senior Jo Zini from being factors inside.
Fowkes said he needs his squad to combat that effort with consistent guard play to open up the floor and have a shot at the win.
“We have to attack their defense for four quarters,” he said. “We talked to the guys about needing some guards to hit shots to take off some of the pressure on Jo Zini and Daniel Woods.”
Fowkes expects his team to rise to the challenge though, as they enter the tournament 6-2 in their last eight games and fully healthy for the first time in weeks.
“We look pretty good right now. Everyone is healthy. We’re running into this thing with everyone available, no injuries. We’re ready to go full-throttle,” Fowkes said.
With the atmosphere surrounding the state tournament, as well as the excitement at the school, Fowkes wants to make sure his team doesn’t get too caught up in the hype.
“A lot of teams go down and get caught up in the pageantry of the state tournament. I told my guys we’re not going down there to hang out at the mall and eat together; we’re going to play basketball,” he said. “The kids have had a laser focus in practice and that tells me a lot.”
As the Warriors prepare to take the court tonight, they are as ready as Fowkes believes they can be. Despite the fact that his team still has its fair share of doubters, he insists that the Warriors could be the dark horse of the weekend.
“I believe that the cards just fell in the right direction, and we’re not going down there to soak up the environment,” he said. “We’re going down there to make a run at this thing and try to win it.”