MORGANTOWN — Trinity Christian School boys’ basketball coach John Fowkes couldn’t tell you the last time the Warriors had beaten Wheeling Central Catholic before Saturday night. He’s certain it was before he took the reigns of the program during the 2016-’17 season.
Seniors Joel Robertson and Briston Bennett can’t quite remember, either. Saturday night’s 64-56 win over the top-ranked Maroon Knights to secure the 2018 Undo’s Holiday Tournament Championship was a first for them, as well.
“We put the work in. They handed us a loss last March, but we stuck to our guns and put the work in and we believe in that,” Bennett said. “That’s a formula for success we really buy into, and that’s the key. We have 15 guys that are locked into and bought into the same goal.”
The victory is surely sweet revenge for the Warriors after the last pair of meetings between the two programs ended in heartbreak for Trinity — a missed half-court heave at the buzzer leading to a loss in the 2018 Class A state semifinals.
“They have a great organization, and last year they had a few guys that were really great athletes,” Robertson said.
“We knew coming in it would be a tough one, but we’ve been sticking the same group of guys from the start of freshman year, and we wanted to go out there and show that we can compete with and beat anyone in the state.”
The win also solidifies the program’s spot in the upper echelon of Class A basketball during the Fowkes era, but the question of how good of a team Trinity could be remains up in the air.
In Class A basketball, however, you don’t get much better historically than Wheeling Central. The program leads its classification with nine state championships — including three in five appearances over the last ten years. The Maroon Knights entered the season as defending state champions and were ranked atop the preseason AP poll, and the Warriors handed them just their second loss of the season — the first in-state.
“For our program, this is a huge win. I don’t know the last time Trinity has beaten Wheeling Central, and to beat them in their own holiday tournament, that’s pretty significant. They don’t lose in this tournament,” Fowkes said.
“It’s a special win for me. We’ve beat everyone but Central, we went down the list and checked teams off, and we finally get to check this one off. For me, that’s huge. In Class A basketball, historically, that’s the best team there is, and we beat them.”
Trinity returns to action Thursday as it hosts undefeated No. 7 Notre Dame.
“We’re not going to get too excited. It doesn’t stop,” Fowkes said. “We have two days of enjoyment then we have to prepare for Notre Dame. That’s a tough ball club.
“I have a lot of respect for that team down I-79 South. That’s a war waiting to happen, and he’s going to have his kids ready because they weren’t happy with how they were ranked in the preseason.”