The names have changed, but the results so far are the same for a Trinity High School basketball team that shows no signs of slipping from its status as a Seventh Region and statewide powerhouse.
The Shamrocks overcame a slow start, put together a 20-0 run and got strong outings from Gabe Schmitt and Jacob King to rally past Owen County 63-56 on Friday in the first round of the Forcht Bank King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic at Fairdale.
After losing eight seniors – including five starters – from last season’s 24-6 squad, Trinity is off to a 7-0 start and showing its No. 10 state ranking in The Courier-Journal’s preseason poll of coaches might be low.
“We just believe in one another and know what everyone brings to the table,” King said. “Everyone knows their role, and most of us have played together for a while. It helps when everyone has chemistry.”
Schmitt scored 19 points and King 18 as Trinity advanced to face No. 3 Paul Dunbar (7-0) in Monday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal.
Carson Williams, a Northern Kentucky University signee, had 24 points, 13 rebounds and five assists while playing all 32 minutes for No. 15 Owen County (8-1).
The Rebels led by 13 points in the third quarter but then went scoreless for more than nine minutes.
“We were right there and didn’t make plays,” coach Devin Duvall said. “Turnovers were a factor. We had 18, and we average about nine a game. Their physicality obviously was a factor.”
The 6-foot-7 Williams was nearly unstoppable in the first half, hitting 6 of 8 shots while posting 13 points and giving the Rebels a 34-26 lead. His eight rebounds were one more than Trinity had in the entire first half.
Vince Toftness’ basket gave the Rebels a 43-30 lead with 5:09 left in the third before King took over, scoring 11 straight points to pull the Shamrocks within 43-41 at the end of the period.
King hit 5 of 6 free throws during the run and provided needed offense for a Trinity squad that endured atypical struggles from the 3-point line (2 of 18).
“That’s what he can do with his penetration,” Trinity coach Mike Szabo said. “It puts a lot of pressure on people, and he can drive the ball and get to the rim and get fouled or kick it out to some shooters.”
Lukas Burkman’s two free throws completed the 20-0 run and gave Trinity a 50-43 lead with 4:05 remaining.
Toftness’ 3-pointer pulled the Rebels within 53-52 with 1:50 remaining, but Schmitt answered with a basket and then hit 8 of 8 free throws in the final 34 seconds to seal it.
Trinity finished 19 of 24 (79.2 percent) from the free-throw line.
Szabo said the key to the second half was his defense getting more physical with Williams and pressuring Owen County’s guards.
“In the first half, frankly, we were flat,” Szabo said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of communication out there, and there were a lot of breakdowns defensively. … Everything needed to change in the second half. It didn’t change completely, but it was enough to eke out a win.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
OWEN COUNTY 14 20 9 13 – 56
TRINITY 10 16 15 22 – 63
Owen County (8-1) – McDonald 9, Toftness 7, Forsee 10, Dunaway 6, Williams 24.
Trinity (7-0) – King 18, Burton 6, Schmitt 19, Harris 12, King 2, Burkman 6.
3-point goals – McDonald 3, Toftness; Burton, Schmitt.