Ocala-Trinity Catholic (Fl.) came into the season with the potential to be one of the best boys high school basketball teams in the state, regardless of classification.
The Celtics returned four starters from a team that made it all the way to the Class 5A championship game, finishing state runner-up. On top of that, Trinity Catholic added two talented transfers, including a 6-foot-8 big man.
But talent doesn’t win games. After an opening-round loss in the Kelleher Firm Gulfshore Holiday Hoopfest on Thursday, the Celtics found themselves searching for answers.
The loss dropped Trinity Catholic to 6-3 – a winning record, but not where the Celtics wanted to be after starting the year with such high expectations. The team now wants to use the remainder of its trip to Naples to keep improving in hopes of another postseason run.
The Celtics did bounce back Friday to beat Lakeland-Kathleen, 68-53, behind 21 points from Dominic Pugh.
“We’re in a rut right now, just trying to find our identity,” third-year coach Carlos Villalobos said. “It’s tough for us now, but hopefully we’ll play our best basketball in February. Right now we’re not playing well at all.”
The Celtics say the ingredient that’s missing is team chemistry. Though the transfers have added depth to Trinity Catholic, the old and new players still are learning to work together.
Gunner Munn, a 6-foot-3 guard who played at Gainesville-Buchholz last season, led the Celtics in scoring in the first round of the Hoopfest. Trinity Catholic also has Kyler Rodmon, a 6-8, 240-pound forward from Orlando Christian Prep.
“It was bonding and team chemistry,” that led to last year’s run to the title game, said returning starter Montez Leath. “We were good at playing together and doing what we needed to do. That’s what stood out last year.”
Even with the new players, and even though the Celtics are 3-3 over their past six games, the expectations remain high.
“Nothing less than a championship,” is the goal, Munn said. “We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder. We know we’re a good team, we’ve just got a few things to figure out.”