KINGWOOD — The basketball game was secondary Monday night as Preston hosted the second annual Make-A-Swish game along with Trinity Christian at the Knights’ Castle in Kingwood.
All proceeds from the door of Monday’s game were donated to the Monongalia and Preston County chapters of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the proceeds from the 50/50 raffle were donated to the Preston County-based Friends Through Cancer charity.
“The game tonight’s secondary,” Preston coach Brian Millers said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years. I had a niece who go to do a make-a-wish trip and it was just fantastic for her. We wanted to do something to honor her.”
Miller partnered with Trinity coach Mike Baldy, who teaches at Preston High School, to get their teams together every year and raise money for a good cause.
“There were people at our game tonight that I’ve never seen at a game,” Miller said. “We got a good crowd. People just want to support a good cause and that’s the number-one most important thing.”
Because Trinity moved down to Class AA this season, the Knights have to play up two classifications against the Class AAAA Knights. Despite the size discrepancy between the schools, Baldy said they never thought twice about playing the game, saying the benefits vastly outweigh the outcome.
“We probably didn’t talk nearly enough about the importance of that to our girls tonight,” Baldy said. “That’s something we’ll talk about in practice tomorrow. Even though we lost the game, that’s something that’ll have a long-lasting effect on someone’s life that’ll live long past our loss to Preston.”
A strong second half helped the Knights (3-6) to a 53-36 victory in front of a boisterous home crowd. Trinity (3-4) led 22-17 at halftime, but Preston went on a 17-point run in the third quarter to steal momentum. The Knights outscored their visitors 19-5 in the third to lead 36-27 entering the final frame.
“Brian carved us up,” Baldy explained. “He ran a zone and we couldn’t do anything in it. We stopped getting any buckets in transition.”
After playing man defense in the first half, Preston switched to a zone in the second which paid big dividends. Baldy gave the credit to Miller’s coaching, but the idea actually came from junior point guard Ella White.
“I’ve got to give credit to Ella White, she’s the one that suggested the defense change, that was all her,” Miller said. “I’ll take suggestions from anybody if it can get us a win.”
As the only returner who played significant minutes last season, White is Preston’s most experienced player.
“We wanted to go man because we were afraid of (Trinity junior) Jenna (Barnett), because she’s a stud,” Miller explained. “We wanted to go man so we didn’t give her any looks and we did that well for one quarter and then Ella suggested we go to a zone, which scares me because Jenna can shoot the lights out. I said ‘I’m willing to give it a shot, but you guys better communicate out there and know where everybody’s at.’”
The Knights played the zone to near-perfection, as they held Trinity to just two buckets in the third quarter and four in the fourth. The Warriors cut the lead to four points, 40-36, but Preston scored the final 13 points of the contest to come out on top.
“They were able to get their composure with so many new kids,” Miller said. “Besides the four we have returning, everybody else is a freshman or a sophomore for the first varsity game of their life was this year. Just a great team win and we needed it.”
Alauna Wilson led Preston with 12 points while White finished second with 11. Carsynn Sypolt had nine and Kendall Stiles and Kendra Nazelrod each scored eight.
Sucora Brown led Trinity with 12 points while Barnett finished with 11.
Trinity is back in action tonight at home against Madonna while Preston will play tomorrow against Lewis County.
Preston 53, Trinity 36
TC 11 11 5 9 — 36
P 9 8 19 17 — 12
Trinity — Barnett 5 0-0 11; Brown 4 4-5 12; Wimer 3 0-0 7; Fisher 3 0-0 6.
Preston — White 4 2-4 11; A. Wilson 4 3-4 12; Stiles 4 0-0 8; Miller 2 0-0 5; Sypolt 3 3-5 9; Nazelrod 3 2-3 8.
3 Pt. Goals — Preston 3 (Whilte 1, A. Wilson 1, Miller 1). Trinity 2 (Barnett 1, Wimer 1).