The Central Yellowjackets continued their hot streak with their most convincing — and improbable — victory, taking down top-ranked Trinity 69-56 in a Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament quarterfinal Friday night at Valley.
After the game, a flabbergasted coach Doug Bibby deflected all the credit in taking down the Shamrocks to his assistant coaches and players. At times, the tallest Central (10-4) player on the floor was shorter than the shortest Shamrock, and yet they never trailed after this first two minutes of the game.
Perhaps the most telling play of the game was the last of the first half. As the seconds wound down, Brandon Wells, a 5-foot-7 guard, found himself guarded along the 3-point line by 6-foot-10 center Raymond Spalding. The junior guard blew past the Louisville signee, beating him to the basket for a layup and giving Central a 30-22 lead at the break.
“They played with heart,” Bibby said. “I mean, I put together a game plan, but the kids had to go out and execute that. I cannot take credit for this win.”
Nothing seemed to go right for Trinity (12-4), which shot a better percentage from the floor (43.2 percent) than from the free-throw line (41.2 percent). The Shamrocks missed 20 free throws, with Spalding going 5-for-19 from the stripe.
“You miss 20 free throws, you’re not going to win,” Trinity coach Mike Szabo said. Missing “20 free throws and (22) turnovers is a recipe for a loss. We got what we deserved.”
Five Yellowjackets finished with double-digit point totals, led by sophomore reserve Devin Firman’s 17. He scored eight of his points in the first quarter, including five during a 15-3 spurt that allowed Central to take a 20-8 lead late in the first perior.
“I knew we could beat them,” Firman said.
Da’Von Thompson and Wells added 13 points for Central. Wells added five assists.
Trinity continued a pattern of sluggish first-half play, but unlike the past few games, they were not able to take over in the second half. Spalding, who led the Rocks with 14 points, opened the second half with a 3-point play to cut Central’s lead to five, but Central responded with a 12-3 run over a 3:08 stretch in the third quarter to make it 42-28.
Trinity did not get closer than six the rest of the way.
“We’ll see,” Szabo said, when asked if this game would be a wake-up call for a team many expected to win the state title this year. “Should be.”
In the last 10 days, Bibby’s team has knocked off No. 3 Manual and No. 9 Pleasure Ridge Park by a total of six points. Their reward for crushing the Rocks is a game against No. 2 Ballard, some 13 hours after beating the No. 1 team in the state.
“Who thinks about Ballard when you got Trinity,” Bibby said, when asked about his game plan. “…I’m going to be up all night breaking down film.”
Central (10-4) – Wells 13, M. Firman 12, Davis 2, Thompson 13, Johnson 10, D. Firman 17, Brown 2.
Trinity (12-4) – West 4, Levitch 11, Murphy 6, Ramser 5, King 2, Knight 2, Thieneman 2, Stafford 10, Spalding 14.
3-point goals – M. Firman, Thompson 3, D. Firman 3; Levitch 2, Ramser, Spalding.