The Trinity Titans boys basketball team was prepared to give everything they had in the 2021 Class B State Tournament. After finally overcoming its biggest obstacle in Beulah, the team had all the confidence a team would need going into the tournament filled with some of the best teams the state of North Dakota had to offer.
Despite taking a devastating blow on opening night, the Titans bounced back in spectacular fashion to close out the regular season with back-to-back victories to take home the fifth place consolation trophy.
Titans’ Head Coach Gregg Grinsteinner was proud of the way his team played in the team’s final three games of the season.
“We’re feeling great. We put together a really solid effort, and we challenged our kids about coming out in a matter of will. ‘Do you want to go out and go through the motions? Or do you want to go out and play to win?’ And our kids really responded,” he said.
The Titans started the tournament with an intense thriller against Kindred High.
Determined to find themselves in the winning bracket, Trinity pushed past the Vikings’ length and was able to outscore its opponents 16-11 in the first quarter and went into the halftime break with a 25-20 lead.
Trinity hit a scoring drought following the break, only hitting on 20% of chances compared to Kindred hitting on 50%. As a result, the Vikings’ outscored Trinity 14-7 to take a 34-32 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Despite being down, the fourth quarter delivered an epic clash between the Titans and the Vikings with both teams making key plays and locking down on defense. With just under 30 seconds remaining, and with the hopes of tying, the Vikings opted to foul and send the Titans to the free throw line as opposed to giving the team a chance to tie or win.
As a result, the Titans were unable to make the comeback and fell to Kindred 46-43. Kindred would eventually move on to win the 2021 Class B State Championship.
“We talked about us being able to compete, and I thought our kids competed their tails off; that was pretty evident,” Grinsteinner said. “I thought for the most part we played really well defensively, we just couldn’t get some shots to roll.”
With the devastating loss, Titans fans knew the team faced two roads: one leading to finishing out strong. the other, a complete meltdown. Fans hoped to never see the latter.
In Trinity’s rematch against Shiloh Christian, it seemed that the meltdown was going to be more likely as the Titans trailed 20-9 going into the second quarter. Fortunately, that was the only meltdown that was shown.
From then on, the team did only one thing that it does best, play Titans’ basketball.
Trinity went on to outscore Shiloh Christian 14-2, 14-6, and just fell short of outscoring them in the fourth 17-16, to take a 53-45 victory. Despite only shooting 35.6% from the field, the Titans scored on 17 of 18 chances at the free throw line to become triumphant in the long awaited rematch.
“We didn’t really like the first quarter that we had. I think we were still (down from Kindred) and feeling sorry for ourselves, and the coaching staff challenged our kids and I thought they responded,” Grinsteinner said. “We held them to two points in the second quarter and six in the third. and I thought that was a heck of a defensive effort. … I thought our kids really made the plays when they needed to.”
With the victory, the Titans advanced to the fifth-place game to take on Rugby.
To Trinity it was more than just a fifth-place game, but the final game to play on one of the best Trinity Titans’ boys basketball teams the school has ever had. Along with that, it was the seniors' final chance to wear "Titans" across the chest and represent the red and white.
It was only for fifth-place, but the Titans played like champions.
Never letting up on its opponents, the Titans outscored opponents 19-12, 16-13, 17-9 and 20-13 to take the widespread 72-47 victory over Rugby. The Titans connected on 58.7% of its overall shots for the game, compared to the Panthers’ 50%.
“It was four complete quarters that we played, and it was on both ends of the floor,” Grinsteinner said. “We executed really, really well. We won the battle on the glass, shot it the best that we’ve shot it all tournament — both from the 3-point line and inside the arc and just really had a fun time playing.”
With the season officially coming to an end and the team taking fifth place, Grinsteinner could finally reflect on his ‘20-21 Titans and everything they accomplished over the painfully long winter, ending with an overall record of 23-4.
“It’s bittersweet. You just love the fact that these guys came out, competed and they played hard in every game that we played,” he said. “Our losses that we had were very, very close games. We had some great wins, we had some overtime games, we’re happy with our kid’s efforts and they just battled.”
Nevertheless, Grinsteinner’s heart was heavy for his senior leaders, such as senior guard Jake Daniel who was the only player at Trinity to make the State B All Tournament Team, as they officially closed the book on their careers as Trinity athletes.
“(The seniors) played outstandingly,” he said. “They did a great job of leading us, the whole year. It didn’t matter if we were up, if we were facing adversity, if we were down, those kids really stepped up their game; they led the team to be what it needed to be.
Grinsteinner added, “It’s time for some of these kids to move on, but at the same time, they left a legacy and they showed the younger kids how the game is supposed to be played, how you’re supposed to practice and how you approach life, and that’s one thing that you want to instill in your program. I think our seniors just really optimized that whole thing, and when you have a group like that all you can do is say thanks.”
With the weekend officially marking the end of all winter sports, Grinsteinner said his team will celebrate and cherish the memories and the victories. However, just as any other coach, Grinsteinner is still looking forward to what the future holds, even while enjoying the moment with his current roster.
“(The underclassmen) know what’s expected, and they want to be a part of it,” he said. “Any time you have something like that you’re always going to look forward to the next season. You applaud the season you just had, you enjoy this season, embrace this season, and you’re always looking forward to the future too.”
Grinsteinner added, “We’re going to celebrate this for a while. It was a tough year with all the COVID stuff, and we really enjoyed how we finished it off.”