MORGANTOWN — One of the toughest lessons to learn upon growing up is that life doesn’t always come with a fairy-tale ending.
Trinity Christian boys’ basketball has developed in a big way over the past th ree seasons, as they turned a run-of-the-mill small school program into a perennial state tournament threat. With an eleven-man senior class returning this winter from a semifinal run at the 2018 Class A State Basketball Tournament, the Warriors had their sights set on the brass ring, so to say – the program’s first-ever state championship.
The setup couldn’t have been written more perfectly; if it was an after-school comedy or Disney movie, the No. 5 Warriors would have stormed their way to the final and captured the crown. In reality, what they brought to the court for Friday’s state semifinal against No. 1 Webster County just wasn’t enough, and Trinity bowed out of the tournament a day earlier than planned for the second consecutive year.
“Obviously it’s a little disappointing when you put that much time and effort into a goal, and then to lose the way we did. It hurts, it stings – we came up short against a team we felt we could have beat. It’s definitely not the way we wanted to go out,” senior Briston Bennett said.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, it’s hard not to reflect upon what this departing group of seniors at Trinity has accomplished over the past four years. It all began with a bond predicated on facing the unknown world of high school sports.
“All eleven seniors we have right now came into this as freshman, and we were bright eyed kids that didn’t know what we were getting into with high school basketball, senior Daniel Woods said. “We stuck together and we became not just teammates but brothers, and that’s what allowed us to be as successful as we were in high school basketball.”
What started as friendship quickly developed into a prime example of what a group of like-minded individuals can accomplish with enough dedication, hard work, and skill. The Warriors began to buy into the program laid forth by coach John Fowkes, and quickly changed the culture surrounding Trinity basketball.
“Coach Fowkes said after the game today, we were the first group he felt like he saw through, that went all the way through playing varsity for us. He talked about how we were able to establish a culture and set the tone for what he wants to do with Trinity Christian basketball. That success resulting from that culture changed the school,” Woods said.
Now, a school that has been relatively quiet for much of its existence has been revitalized with the energy brought by success on the hardwood. It’s the type of long-term momentum that bodes well for a school with one of the smallest enrollments in the state.
“We’ve completely changed the culture at Trinity, and we rekindled the excitement over basketball by buying into our expectations. We definitely set a standard for the teams to come,” senior Joel Robertson said.
The Warriors will sport a different look next season – junior Fletcher Hartsock will be the only returner with significant experience – but the impact left on the program by the Class of 2019 will stretch further than their final game. As the school continues to expand its footprint both academically and athletically, its certain that the legacy left by this team will play a large part in that growth.
“Obviously we had bigger goals, but looking back on it we still did tremendous things. The way we’ve played the past couple years, the tournaments that we’ve won, winning a regional on our home court, and to have a chance to a state final, it’s something special,” Bennett said.
“At the end of the day, the legacy we’ve left at Trinity – it’s just a completely different environment than it was three years ago. That’s not something that can be rewarded with a trophy or anything tangible, but we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. There were times in the past three years we didn’t look so great, and we stuck through it. We’re happy to use the platform of basketball to do bigger and better things for our school.”
“Younger players see the success we’ve had and they want to be a part of a proven program. A good amount of new kids are coming to the school to find success academically and on the playing field,” Robertson added. “We hope to be examples on and off the court for those upcoming classes.”