Trinity boys better than record shows



The record lies. The numbers are real, but what they reveal on the surface is false. Any team that has a won-loss record of 12-14 stamped next to its name for all time will likely have its season written off by historians as mediocre.

The knowledgeable know different when it comes to the 2020-21 Trinity Lutheran boys basketball team. The Cougars were exiled from the Indiana High School Athletic Association state tournament in regional play Saturday, and the final score of 63-38 totaled by opponent Barr-Reeve does not scream for reading between the lines to the average fan either.

But more was written in invisible ink about this Cougars this year than in the regular ink where most people read.

Trinity began the season 1-9. The reason was more about bodies missing in action with injury than not being a good team. When everyone found a uniform that fit, everyone fit together and Trinity went 11-5 the rest of the season.

That included Trinity winning three games to capture the West Washington Sectional.

That triumph gave the Cougars a pass into the Loogootee Regional where the draw set them up against now 26-2 Barr-Reeve, the No. 1 ranked Class 1A team in the state.

The Vikings prevailed by the margin most people thought they would, but that is a little bit like saying they got to their destination while not mentioning the sea sickness on the storm-battered voyage.

Trinity’s early defense had the Vikings in a vise grip. Trinity penetrated to the basket. The only problem was that Trinity could not score. The ball bounced every which way but in. The score was 21-11 at halftime. The lead was in single digits briefly as late as the third quarter.

In the second half, however, Barr-Reeve turned to its core game plan. The Vikings fed the ball to 6-foot-9 Curt Hopf, and he took over, scoring 26 points. It was right approach. When you’ve got a strong man in the lineup, you use his strength.

By game’s end, Trinity coach Ryan Crase knew by heart the statistic that hurt the Cougars the most: 17 missed shots taken from within three feet of the basket. As he noted, you can play superb defense to stifle the No. 1 team, but if you can’t put the ball in the hoop you can’t win.

Senior guard Tyler Goecker concurred completely on that being the issue that did in his team. But he felt pretty good about how well the underdogs acquitted themselves. The Cougars heard the whispers, heck, the shouts, from some, that they had no chance to beat the Vikings.

"Our defense going into the half was pretty good," Goecker, who played the final game of his career and is the program’s all-time leading scorer, though he had just 9 points Saturday. "For us being nobodies. We weren’t even supposed to win sectionals."

One thing stood out about Saturday’s game: The Loogootee gym reeked of Indiana high school basketball atmosphere. Trinity and Barr-Reeve were allotted 1,200 tickets per side and fans turned out to see the high-stakes game. Most of the winter they were shut out of games because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were fans. There was noise. The mood was as it should be. Especially considering tip-off was at 10 a.m. and probably not everyone had ingested enough coffee.

A few days ago at practice, sophomore Hudson Norton, one of Trinity’s high scorers all season, relished the memory of riding on a town fire truck, a traditional spoil of victory for Indiana sectional champs. But he was also gazing at the gym wall in the Bollinger Athletic Center where past accomplishments were highlighted.

There was no year listed under the heading of regional championships. After this loss the space stays empty, to be gazed upon by underclassmen like Norton under the heading of unfinished business.

"For sure, for sure," he said.

The business finished for this team, and especially the three seniors, Goecker, Marksberry and Lawson Woods, who was benched by a late-season wrist injury and surgery, included that sectional title.

Such crowns come with a lot of sweat and are always appreciated.

"It was an honor to get to play in the regional," Marksberry said. "I’ll look back on it (the sectional win) for the rest of my life."

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