Trinity Lutheran’s boys basketball team will have to put together its best performance of the season if it wants to even its record at .500 in the Class A Loogootee Regional on Saturday morning.
The Cougars, 12-13 and winners of the West Washington Sectional last week, will play top-ranked Barr-Reeve (25-2) at 10 a.m. Lanesville (17-7) will play Evansville Day (13-5) in the second game with the winners meeting at 7:30 p.m. for the championship.
Barr-Reeve has won 19 straight since losing back-to-back games in late December, 57-55 at Carmel on Dec. 23 and 77-65 in overtime to Blackhawk Christian in the Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle a week later.
Trinity played two games in a tournament at Loogootee at the beginning of the season, losing to Evansville Day 73-72 and Rock Creek Academy 70-58. Trinity has not played Barr-Reeve or Lanesville.
“The start will be important, but also the start of every quarter," Trinity coach Ryan Crase said. "We want to make sure that every single quarter when we come out from the bench, we get off to a good start, just try to execute the game plan the best we can and give them everything we’ve got.”
Trinity is averaging 61.8 points per game and giving up 60.3, while the Vikings are averaging 60.8 and giving up 39.8 per game.
Curt Hopf leads the Vikings in scoring at 19.1 per game, and Hagen Knapp is next at 11.2. Barr-Reeve has five other players averaging between 4.7 and 7 points per game.
“They’ve got a lot of shooters, a great point guard who can get in the paint and they’ve got that great, big guy (Hopf), so we’re going to have our work cut out for us," Crase said. “We’re coming up with some game plans, some schemes based on what we have to work with. We’ve got some athleticism ourselves, and we’re going to go out there and guard them with everything we’ve got.”
Crase said holding turnovers down will be a key for the Cougars.
“We can’t give them easy runouts," he said. "They’re going to score enough on their own with just their talent, so you can’t give them any extra buckets. You’ve got to score when you’ve got the opportunity, and when they miss, you’ve got to get the rebound.”
Tyler Goecker leads Trinity in scoring (17.1), rebounding (7.3) and assists (3.1). Hudson Norton is second for Trinity in scoring at 15.1, and Jack Marksberry is averaging 13.2.
Norton and teammate Mitchell Hackman said winning sectional was the most fun and the biggest basketball wins they have been part of and are looking forward to the regional.
Norton came to Trinity from Ohio prior to his freshman season. He said winning sectional was amazing.
"We were all pumped up about that," he said. "We’ve been planning and preparing for it all season. It’s just that we executed and won.”
Hackman said he hasn’t won anything as big as the sectional.
"It was really cool (getting a piece of the net)," he said. "I haven’t done that since the LIT (Lutheran Invitational Tournament) when I was in eighth grade. Before this year, I had never even won a sectional game, so it’s pretty cool.”
Norton said Trinity is going to have to go all out all of the way in the regional.
“This week, I’m looking forward to going into the game knowing we can win and not being scared of anything and giving them a game,” he said. "We’re definitely bringing 100% effort. We’re practicing for it. We’re definitely overpreparing our bodies to win the game. It will take a lot out of us, but I think we’ve got it.”
He said the Cougars have done a lot more running and conditioning in practice this week than they normally would.
“We’re getting up and down more, and we’re shooting more shots," Norton said. "We’re going to play the way we want to play.”
Hackman agreed the Cougars will go and play their game.
"Our record doesn’t show how good of a team we are," he said. "We’ve lost three games in our last 12. We’ve been learning and buying in, playing as a team and not one-on-one as much. We’ve been moving the ball around and tiring defenders out. I think that’s working a lot better for us, spreading it out.”
Crase said he feels the Cougars can adjust to whatever style will be effective against the Vikings, a fast-paced or a slow-down game.
“We’ve looking at both options,” Crase said. “At this point in time, it’s probably going to depend on how our shooting is that day. If we’re hitting a lot of shots, we may run a little more, and if we’re having an off night shooting, we may slow it down and just play half-court style, so we’ll just see how it goes on Saturday. On film, I’ve seen them press some, and I’ve seen games where they just play half-court defense. We’ll just kind of prepare for everything.”
This is Crase’s first year as head coach of the Cougars.
“We had some good victories in the sectional. We had all the confidence in the world in ourselves, but we beat two really good teams to get it," he said as Trinity defeated Crothersville, Edinburgh and West Washington.
"No one else may have seen it coming, but we knew how good we were," he said. "We knew we were missing two key pieces that we were for so long. We knew our record would have been a lot better having them, but ever since we got everybody together and got it figured out, we have been a different team."
Crase hopes the Cougars have just as much fun this weekend.
"(Loogootee) is a great gym, a great facility," he said. "It ought to be a fun time.”
Trinity Lutheran starters
Tyler Goecker, Sr. (17.10)
Jack Marksberry, Sr. (13.2)
Mitchell Hackman, Jr. (8.7)
Jacob Sabotin, Jr. (5.9)
Hudson Norton, So. (15.1)