LEXINGTON, Ky. – The ugly end for the Trinity High School basketball team came Wednesday afternoon, but coach Mike Szabo saw it coming days before.
On Monday came the news that top reserves Brendan King (foot injury) and Christian Terry (flu) were questionable for the Shamrocks’ state tournament opener. Then, on Tuesday, the realization that freshman David Johnson was ill and the rest of the team seemed to be missing something.
“It just looked like our legs weren’t there,” Szabo said of Tuesday’s practice. “I just felt like we ran out of gas physically and maybe a little mentally as well.”
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A solid Newport Central Catholic squad took advantage, getting a big game from Bellarmine University signee Ben Weyer to defeat the Shamrocks 48-33 in a first-round game of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 in front of 9,773 fans at Rupp Arena.
Szabo had called this Trinity squad the best shooting team he’d ever coached, and the Shamrocks entered the game with a 41.3-percent clip from 3-point range this season.
But the wheels came off Wednesday, as the Shamrocks hit just 12 of 46 shots (26.1 percent) overall and 4 of 21 (19 percent) from 3-point range.
“We need everyone dialed in, especially when you have two guys go down,” junior point guard Jacob King said. “That really hurts. But we’re not using that as an excuse, that we got worn out. Newport just played a great game.”
Weyer, a 6-foot-6 senior, finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and four assists as the Thoroughbreds (29-4) – No. 9 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – advanced to face Murray (30-5) in Friday’s noon quarterfinal.
“I think Ben’s as good as anybody in the state,” NewCath coach Ron Dawn said. “This is a typical day for Ben. The way he played today is the way he’s played all year for us.”
Trinity hit four of its first five shots and took an 11-2 lead on King’s two free throws with 3:38 left in the first quarter.
But it was downhill from there.
“We came out early and had that adrenaline and got these guys through it,” Szabo said. “Then that kind of wore off, and I think the real problems set in. We didn’t run the floor well. Jacob was passing guys going up the floor when guys should be ahead of him.”
The Shamrocks were held scoreless during the second quarter and trailed 22-11 after Weyer’s basket early in the third quarter. Trinity missed 20 shots in a row before L.J. Harris connected at the 4:32 mark of the third quarter.
“We worked on defense all week, and we thought we had their sets down pretty well,” Dawn said. “But I had no idea we’d be able to do that. … Maybe they had a bad shooting day. I don’t know. I’d like to think we had something to do with it though.”
David Burton, who led the Shamrocks with nine points, hit three free throws to cap an 8-2 run that pulled Trinity within 34-23 with 5:58 remaining.
But Luke Moeves answered with two free throws and then a 3-pointer that made it 39-23 with 4:38 left, and NewCath cruised from there.
Szabo said he wouldn’t let the tough finish affect his view of a team that won its third Seventh Region title in the past five years.
“I thought they did the best they could,” Szabo said. “It just didn’t go our way. … I didn’t think we played as loose as we normally do offensively. We passed up a lot of open shots, and I’m not sure why really. We just seemed out of sync.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC 7 13 12 16 – 48
TRINITY 11 0 7 15 – 33
Newport Central Catholic (29-4) – Weyer 19, Hall 13, Moeves 12, E. Anderson 2, Neff 2.
Trinity (29-7) – Burton 9, Harris 4, Johnson 4, King 7, Schmitt 4, Rice 3, Rose 2.
3-point goals – Weyer 2, Hall 3, Moeves; Burton 2, King, Rice.