Getting healthy made difference for Trinity in season’s second half

Back in November when Ryan Crase was conducting preseason practice for the Trinity Lutheran boys basketball team, he was about to see a dream become a reality, that of becoming the head coach of a varsity basketball team.

The Cougars, however, were practicing with just three returning regulars in seniors Tyler Goecker and Jack Marksberry and junior Mitchell Hackman.

The Cougars played their first six games without Hackman and their first eight games without Marksberry, who moved into the starting lineup as soon as they recovered from injuries.

Trinity started out 0-6 and was 1-9 when it defeated Henryville and Shawe Memorial.

The Cougars have gone 11-4 since the slow start and will take a record of 12-13 and a five-game win streak into the Loogootee Regional on Saturday, where they will play Class A top-ranked Barr-Reeve.

“We got it figured out,” Crase said. “We got it turned around, and we’re playing as a family. Now, we’re 12-13, so we’re playing a lot better.”

Goecker, a senior guard and captain, recalled the Cougars’ slow start.

“We’ve just now started to all play together. It has taken us longer than we expected it to to play team basketball, but we’re doing really well with it,” he said.

While holding a piece of the net Saturday night after the Cougars captured the West Washington Sectional, Goecker said, “It’s amazing. It has been my eighth grade year since I’ve done that. It’s longer than I wanted to, but it had to come some time. I just want to give all the glory to God and my friends and family and my coaches for supporting me in everything I do.”

This made the fourth sport in which a Trinity team won a sectional this school year, adding to the victories by the volleyball, girls soccer and girls basketball teams.

Goecker said it will take another team effort when facing Barr-Reeve at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“We need teamwork, to move the ball, come out and prove a point,” he said. “They’re a very good team. We need to come out and play our basketball and see what happens.”

The Cougars played in a tournament at Loogootee at the beginning of the season and lost to Rock Creek Academy and Evansville Day, but they were without Marksberry and Hackman.

Goecker said the Jack Butcher Sports Arena in Loogootee has a nice atmosphere, and he hopes a large group of Trinity fans attends to support the Cougars.

Marksberry said with him and Hackman in the lineup, they are just a more complete team.

“We’re deeper that way. Talent-wise I’d say we’re all about the same, but it’s just a matter of playing as a team,” he said. “We’ve got five guys that can play basketball, and we’re going to be tough to beat.”

Goecker and Marksberry went up into the stands Saturday night to give special hugs to two of their former coaches, Brian Stuckwisch and Jim Hoffman.

Stuckwisch coached the Trinity junior varsity during Goecker and Marksberry’s freshman and sophomore seasons, while the two seniors played for Hoffman at Immanuel Lutheran School.

This was Trinity’s first boys basketball sectional title since 2014 and the third in school history with the first one coming in 2011.