WHEELING — The No. 9 Trinity Christian girls’ basketball team were poised to knock off defending Class A state champion No. 4 Wheeling Central Catholic on Saturday night, but the Warriors ran into a bit of roadblock — their own nerves.
After jumping out to a 10-point halftime lead, the Warriors crashed and burned in the second half, giving up 23 third-quarter points en route to a 55-48 loss.
“In the first half, we made shots, in the second half, we did what we tend to do. We got scrambled when a team started charging back at us, we stopped thinking and we stopped communicating,” Trinity coach Mike Baldy said.
The battle of top 10 teams came on Day 2 of the Undo’s Holiday Tournament at Wheeling Jesuit. The Warriors (6-3) were out for revenge after falling to the Maroon Knights in the opening round of the state tournament last March, and had their opponents on the ropes heading into the break. What saved Wheeling Central was a defensive adjustment that wreaked havoc on Trinity’s rhythm to start the third period.
“They went to man-to man in the second half, and we love that. We love playing our man-to-man sets, and you can see sometimes we’d call out the plays and have awesome execution,” Baldy said. “Then all of a sudden we tense up, and instead of throwing an entry pass we stare it down and then throw it wild and, boom, it’s a turnover.”
According to Rachel Rosen, who cleared 17 rebounds in the loss for Trinity, the early lead created a comfort level for the team which would cost them the edge they needed to secure the win.
“We took our lead for granted, and we lost momentum a little bit. It was like we lost our desire to win towards the end,” she said. “A lot of us were tired, so it was hard to find that edge we needed to pull back ahead. It came down to the desire not being there like it was in the first half.”
The loss parallels an early season blight against No. 3 Notre Dame for the Warriors, where they once again opened strong only to stumble and sacrifice a lead late in the game. Baldy believes the issue stems from the level of intensity in practice.
“We probably have to push them a lot harder in practice, he said. “In between drills, we take water breaks and we probably let them go too long or get too relaxed. In games you only get 30 seconds or 60 seconds, and you only get so many of them.
“We’ll tell them to go take a break and give them three minutes. We’re not really preparing them, and that one is on me. We’ll look to push a little harder in between drill work in practice.”
Rosen expects the squad to be able to re-group as a unit and be able to finish games stronger as they head deeper into the schedule.
“Finishing is our goal this season, and I think if we work together more as a team we’ll have an easier time completing that goal and finishing games, and when we finish those games, it’ll be together as a team,” she said.