The No. 4 Trinity Titans have demonstrated their mighty wrath all season long and did so again on Tuesday at home against Class B Region 7 opponent New England by putting the Tigers on a tight leash, controlling each aspect of the court and never allowing the Tigers to roar its way to a victory.
The Titans (9-1) came into Tuesday’s battle with the intention to excel on the defensive end against the Tigers (3-4), particularly with the use of the full court press. Trinity’s defense easily resembled that of Titan’s armor, seemingly indestructible and highly impenetrable.
The Titans' offense was led by senior guard Jake Daniel with 11 points, followed by senior forward Nathaniel Jilek with 10 points.
Amid this, New England came into Trinity’s palace with some confidence after just falling short to 6-2 Central McLean 64-61. The Tigers attempted to desperately claw their way out of the Titans’ defensive persistence and sink their fangs into a victory against arguably the best team in Class B Region 7. Sadly, the team was never able to break away and walked out of the Titans’ coliseum licking their wounds from the 58-30 loss.
New England senior guard Aidan Rebel led the way for the Tigers as the only player to hit double-digit scoring with 14 points.
“(Trinity) is a great team. They’re a well-coached team,” Tigers Head Coach Kaine Hanson said. “At times it looked like our guys were ready to battle and at other times we just could have gotten after it a little more.”
For the Titans, Head Coach Greg Grinsteinner believes his players have made great use of the team’s difficult schedule, including only losing to the then-No. 4 team Enderlin High, then defeating the No. 1 team in Four Winds 62-27, which has resulted in its highly consistent performances, including its 28-point vanquish over New England.
With the victory on Tuesday, the Titans are now in possession of a five-game win streak.
“These last couple weeks we’ve had some really good games that have made us get better,” Grinsteinner said. “We told our kids that we’re going to play at that level and it doesn’t matter who is the opponent, you’re going to play at the level that we expect.”
From the opening tip Trinity allowed New England no time to have a feel for their opponents by storming into the Tigers’ cage in the paint. To make matters more difficult for New England, Daniel torched the Tigers with three 3-pointers in the quarter. By the end of the quarter Trinity was in possession of a 20-6 lead.
New England seemingly found its offense in the second quarter with the help of Rebel, scoring nine of his 14 points in the quarter. Nevertheless, Trinity continued its reign with senior guard Aidan Rebel draining three 3-pointers in the quarter and both Nick Deschamp and Jilek scoring another six points inside the paint.
By halftime, Trinity held a 43-19 lead.
Hanson gave his thoughts as to why it was difficult for the Tigers to stop the Titans offensively and defensively in the first half:
“I think our team knew what we had to do, but Trinity is a difficult team. When a team like Trinity picks you up at full court, we were then making decisions every single time, and eventually we were just overthinking things and making too many decisions,” he said.
Following the halftime break, New England fans hoped the Tigers would be able to roar back, while the Trinity fans hoped the Titans would continue to charge.
The third quarter saw a stronger defensive effort by New England, only allowing the Titans to score eight points in the quarter. As a result of using its energy in the defensive end, the team struggled to find itself in the offensive end, with junior Zack Jalbert scoring the only bucket for the Tigers inside the paint.
With a 51-21 lead going into the final quarter of play, Grinsteinner gave more of his reserves their own playing time. As a result New England was just able to outscore Trinity 9-7, but Trinity marched out with a solid victory.
With the victory, the Titans look to be very confident with their five-game winning streak, but are still aware there are bigger battles ahead.
“They’re looking at the entire season as the big picture,” Grinsteinner said. “We’re climbing the mountain right now, and we’re even close to where we want to be, and I think the kids know that. Even when they come to practice every day they know we've got to get better at even just the little things."
The Titans are set for another strong battle in their home matchup against Central McLean on Saturday. As for New England, the Tigers hope to snap their four-game losing streak on Thursday against Bowman County.
New England: 6 13 2 9: 30
Trinity: 20 23 8 7: 58
New England: Brock Ehlis 3, Tallen Binstock 2, Zack Jalbert 4, Aidan Rebel 14, Zane Sabo 2, Nathan Kaufman 5.
Trinity: Jake Daniel 11, Nick Deschamp 6, Cole Fitterer 9, Aiden Haich 9, Trever Jassek 3, Nathaniel Jilek 10, Tanner Soehren 6, Trenten Bertelsen 4.