Joe Smith, Local Sports, Sports, Trinity Christian

Trinity’s defense leads Warriors back to state tournament

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Any basketball player worth his salt knows that occasionally, shots just aren’t going to fall.
Fortunately for Trinity Christian, they don’t need to rely on the hot hand for their scoring production — their defense creates plenty of opportunities to put the ball in the net.
“What’s new? That’s our game plan; we know that if we bring the defense, the offense will come,” senior Briston Bennett said.
The Warriors converted 23 turnovers into 27 points against visiting Pendleton County on Thursday, as they downed the Wildcats 51-34 in the boys’ Class A Region II Final.
“We struggled a bit to find our rhythm offensively in the first half,” said Bennet, who paced the Warriors (20-5) with 23 points and four steals in the win.
“But when we can get out and run, and we can create opportunities for ourselves on the break, we’re a very hard team to beat.”
The Warriors claim their second consecutive regional title with the victory and will advance to the state tournament in Charleston for a second straight season.
Trinity will enter as the No. 5 seed and will open action at the Civic Center, at 9 p.m. Wednesday, against No. 4 Greenbrier West (21-4).
“We want to go down to Charleston and make some noise. It’s a big victory for the program, but they have bigger goals than just a regional championship,” Trinity head coach John Fowkes said. “That’s just they type of kids we have. They bought into everything we say, and we have a great family atmosphere on this team.”
The Warriors smothered the Wildcats’ backcourt from the jump, clogging the passing lanes and giving them little room to move.
Pendleton (17-7) failed to attempt a shot for the first 3:58 of the first quarter and Trinity tallied 14 steals.
“They’re just sitting in the passing lanes. If there is significant ball pressure, the next guy away is sitting in the lane,” Fowkes said. “They’re great at anticipating the next pass, and they’re great at stopping the drive to the bucket.
“Tonight, I don’t know how many time Pendleton actually got to the rim. They were throwing shots up and playing nervous.”
The Warriors’ ability to force and convert turnovers dictated the pace and tone of the game early.
They forced nine turnovers in the first eight minutes to take a 15-2 lead.
The Wildcats would later make a run to close the gap, but never saw the lead.
“Turnovers forced the pace. If we didn’t have our pressure defense tonight, it might have been a 20-20 score,” Fowkes said.
“Those turnovers create scoring opportunities, and it doesn’t allow the defense to sit back. We get layups, and we have kids that run the floor. We’d much rather score in transition than come down and set a half-court offense up.”
Trinity senior Daniel Woods added 12 points for the Warriors, while senior Marcus Sites led the Wildcats with 12 points.