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Warriors feel prepared for first state tournament game since 2019

MORGANTOWN — There are several pitfalls teams can fall into when going to the WVSSAC state basketball tournament, especially if it is that particular group’s first time making the trip to Charleston.

The Trinity Christian girls’ basketball team is in that boat this week as the Warriors are in Charleston for the first time since 2019. Sixth-seeded TCS (19-5) is scheduled to play No. 3 Wheeling Central on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in the first state tournament game for any of the team’s current players.

Whether it’s difficulty shooting on the Charleston Coliseum’s rims, getting swept up in the excitement of being at the tournament or having to play the early morning game, Trinity coach Mike Baldy believes he has the right blueprints for helping his team avoid those first-time pitfalls.

Preparations began with an early-morning practice on Saturday. The team’s typical easy-going Saturday practice was turned up a couple of notches to get the girls used to playing hard early in the morning.

“We do a lot of Saturday practices at 10 (a.m.) and a lot of those practices we’ll say we’ll take it easy and just shoot around for an hour,” Baldy said. “This past Saturday, we were up, no yawning, we were waking up and we were hitting fire.”

Trinity Christian’s Ella Lynch shoots during a practice inside the WVU Coliseum Monday evening. (Benjamin Powell/The Dominion Post)

Trinity played the early morning game when it was in the tournament in 2019 as well. The Warriors won that day and Baldy said he’s going to use the exact-same pregame warmups.

“We literally have the experience now. We’re going to do the exact same thing that we blueprinted in 2019,” Baldy said. “We look at that as another advantage. Hopefully, we catch a sleeping Wheeling Central while we’re awake and ready to go.”

To combat the shooting difficulties in Charleston, caused by the change in venue from high school gyms to an arena, the Warriors took advantage of being in Morgantown and practiced for an hour in the WVU Coliseum on Monday evening.

“I think it’s going to benefit us a lot,” senior point guard Jenna Barnett said before Monday’s practice. “We’ll already learn how to shoot on these types of rims with these backdrops. We’ll have something that some other teams might not have the ability to do. I think it just gets us mentally prepared; we know this is what it’s going to be like.”

“It’s a legitimate value because of the backdrop,” Baldy said. “This is why we’re here, to get used to the lights and get used to the shooting. I think this is an advantage we have being here in Morgantown and having WVU be willing to help us with that.”

The final hurdle to get over for a first-time tournament team is motivation. There’s a clear difference in Charleston between teams that have been to the tournament before and are trying to win a state title and teams that are just happy to be there. Luckily for Baldy, it seems like his two seniors, Barnett and Ella Lynch, are taking care of that.

Trinity Christian’s Jenna Barnett smiles during a practice inside the WVU Coliseum Monday evening. (Benjamin Powell/The Dominion Post)

“We have two seniors that are hungry,” Baldy said. “That’s kind of been our word for the second half of the season, hungry. We set our goal to get to Charleston at the beginning of the season and I always said ‘When we get down there, we’ll just see that happens.’ And Jenna was upset about that, so we changed it to let’s win the state championship. Since then, we’ve been state championship-driven and we still are.”

The Warriors lost in the region championship game each of the last three years, meaning Barnett and Lynch were one game away from the tournament every year before finally making it as seniors.

“Not only did it have to do with it being my last year, but I know what it feels like to win a state championship,” Barnett said. “I won one in track and it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt. I know what it felt like and I know what it takes to win and I think setting a goal less than that is not going to benefit us in the long run.”

“We’re definitely on a big high, winning our first regional after losing three in a row,” Lynch added. “That was probably one of the best feelings and then thinking about going to Charleston and playing on that court is an even bigger accomplishment.”

The only thing the Warriors haven’t been able to combat this week is having to wait until Thursday to play when the tournament started on Tuesday.

“I’m just very excited,” Lynch said. “There are no nerves at all, I’m just ready to play.”

“I just want to play,” Barnett echoed. “I’m so excited to play again and I just want it to keep going and going.”

Trinity and Wheeling Central will tip off inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center at 9:30 a.m. in the first of six tournament games on Thursday. The winner will advance to the semifinal round on Friday.

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