Tigers pillage Pirates in hopes of NCAA advancement

Trinity consolidates SCAC ranking through victory over Southwestern in hopes of National Tournament bid

Following a hard-fought 69-67 loss against Texas Lutheran University (TLU), Trinity’s men’s basketball took to the hardwood in Calgaard Gymnasium this past Saturday to rebound against the visiting Southwestern University Pirates and hold their place in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) standings.

Southwestern entered the day 8-14 overall, including a 5-8 record in SCAC play. The Tigers entered at 18-4 on the year, with a 10-3 mark in conference action. Trinity fell in the standings after their most recent loss and are now tied with the Schreiner University Mountaineers for second.

The Tigers got out to a hot start on a day that they looked to honor their seniors, and they got some early help from one of seven that were honored. Senior Mick Marquez scored or assisted on Trinity’s first eight points of the day and the Tigers eventually lept out to a 16-6 lead after a perfect seven-for-seven start from the floor.

Head coach Jimmy Smith spoke on the fast start after the game.

“Early in the year we were playing pretty fast tempo and getting the ball up the court and really, since kind of a long COVID break … we hadn’t played with that same pace. And so that was a big emphasis for us tonight, was to get it up the court and move it around and it’s nice when the ball goes in early, you know, everyone starts feeling better,” Smith said.

They would pull ahead to a 22-14 lead with 14:05 left in the first half before a 4:14 long scoring drought allowed Southwestern to climb back into the game at a score of 22-21. But, with a chance to take the lead, senior AJ Clark took the ball away from the Pirates, and junior Enzo Sechi found first-year Jacob Harvey with a one-handed cross-court pass in transition for a three-pointer in the opposite corner.

Not long after, with the Tigers leading 32-25, Clark again took the ball away from the opposition. He would find junior Kaleb Jenkins for a layup in transition and, following the subsequent inbounds, Jenkins would draw a charge to win the ball back. Clark would then finish a tough layup through a foul, knocking down a free throw which all of a sudden had Trinity leading by 12, 37-25.

At the half, the Tigers found themselves ahead 44-32, in control of the game but not yet pulling away. Southwestern was still in the game, thanks in large part to the contributions of senior Kyle Poerschke, who finished the first period with 14 points on six for 12 shooting. For Trinity, Clark had nine points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block at the break.

Both assistant coaches talked in regards to their teams’ halftime discussions before play resumed. Trinity’s Sterling Holmes pointed to the rebounding margin, an area where the Tigers found themselves trailing by five at the time. For Southwestern, Addison Herbert had just one word: “turnovers.” The Pirates had committed 13 to that point.

Coming out of the locker room, the margin remained in shooting distance of 10 points as both teams traded baskets. Southwestern’s success remained in large part thanks to Poerschke’s play, as he added another 10 points in about the first six minutes of the second half. With 13:54 left to go in the game, Trinity led 56-43, and the opposing guard had 24 of his team’s points.

But over the remaining 13:54, the Tigers would pick up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor, holding Poerschke scoreless the rest of the way and slowly growing their lead.

The rest of the Pirates struggled to get anything going consistently on the offensive end, and on the other side, Trinity saw a number of players pitch in what was a balanced scoring effort. Sechi led the way with 12 points, Clark and Harvey each finished with 11, and Jenkins and sophomore Tanner Brown added 10 points apiece.

The highlight of the day, however, came with just over a minute left in regulation. Senior Mason Roberts found himself with the ball in his hands outside the three-point line with just two seconds left on the shot clock (watch here at 1:52:10). He let it fly, finding the bottom of the net and sending his teammates into a frenzy on the bench.

Sechi touched on Roberts’ role on the team after the game.

“Mason is like our glue guy. Man, he’s a really good guy. I think he does a good job of keeping the team together, and after that TLU loss he really focused on that and I think that’s why we came out so great,” Sechi said.

According to Brown, Roberts and the rest of the general senior class serve as an example for younger players to look up to.

“I think the seniors, as a group, are really role models for us as younger guys, and I thank them for that,” Brown said.

The Tigers would go on to win 85-65, moving to 19-4 on the year and 11-3 in the SCAC.

They remain tied for second in the standings with Schreiner University who they will host on Tuesday, Feb. 15 in Calgaard Gymnasium, a game which will have major implications as both teams will look to advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament for a chance to play for a national championship.