MORGANTOWN — All season long, the Trinity Christian boys’ basketball team has had one goal in mind; to qualify for the state tournament in Charleston.
“If you ask every team, every year they say their goal is to win a championship,” first-year head coach Codey Horton said Thursday. “As a new coach, as a new team, that’s kind of tough to reach. How about we just make it to states? We really thought this year was going to be packed at the state tournament and, as you can see, the eight teams there are really good.”
The Warriors (14-11) ultimately accomplished their goal, defeating Frankfort in a Class AA Region II co-final on Tuesday to punch their ticket to the state tournament for the first time since 2019.
“It just means the world to me, ever since freshman year, that’s been my goal,” senior point guard Levi Teets said. “I haven’t been able to accomplish that until my senior year so it was a really special moment to finally be able to accomplish that.”
The Warriors did it the hard way too, playing on the road in all three of their postseason contests. TC opened the playoffs at Braxton County, then played at South Harrison in the section final before ending at Frankfort. For some teams, that kind of travel would be intimidating, but the Warriors were used to it this season, only playing seven times on their home court at TCS.
“It was definitely a disadvantage, you never want to play away, but we had so many away games this season,” junior forward Carter Hartsock said. “Even though it was a regional game with more fans, more pressure and playing for something completely different, we were more prepared with the amount of away games we played.”
“Obviously, we would’ve liked to have had a home game but it really was no different for us,” Teets added. “We’ve been on the road all season traveling super far distances. We feel comfortable on the road just as much as we do at home so it was no big deal for us.”
This will be the first trip to Charleston for any of Trinity’s current players. The last time the Warriors qualified for the tournament was 2019, when the current seniors were only in eighth grade.
“It was just a surreal experience,” Teets said of winning the regional. “Finally after working hard all season and working hard my whole high school career to be able to have the opportunity to play and win a regional championship. It meant a lot to me.”
Hartsock’s older brother, Fletcher Hartsock, was a member of state tournament teams for the Warriors and the younger Hartsock said watching him play in Charleston made him want to get there one day too.
“This is something I’ve had my eyes on for not just this year,” Hartsock said. “Watching my brother (Fletcher) play and him sharing his experience has always made me want to go. Most of these guys (on the team) were here to watch those guys, three or four years before, go to the state tournament and we all loved watching that, we all loved that experience just watching it and being there. I think it’s really nice just to go down again no matter if the odds are against us, it’s an exciting atmosphere.”
The Warriors are the eighth seed in the Class AA bracket and have to play top-seeded and undefeated Williamstown (24-0) in the quarterfinal round Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. After winning the Class AA state title in 2021, the Yellowjackets actually missed out on the tournament last season after being upset in the region co-final by Magnolia.
“We know it’s going to be difficult, we know that we play Williamstown,” Horton said. “Williamstown didn’t go to states last year so a lot of this experience, for both teams, is new this year.”
Even though the Warriors are matched up against a tough opponent, they know they’re guaranteed at least one game in Charleston next week and they plan to make the most of it.
“At this point, being the eigh-seed against the number-one seed, the odds are stacked against us,” Teets said. “We have nothing to lose, we’re just going to go play our game, play as hard as we possibly can and see what happens.”
“For me, it’s kind of a ‘mission accomplished’ type feeling,” Hartsock added. “Since the start of the summer that was kind of our goal, to get to states no matter what. We got what we wanted and we worked hard for it. Everything we did has led to going to states now so it feels very rewarding.”