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'Going to be a challenge': The Titans prepare for state tourney

Trinity prepares for its first state tournament appearance since 2017.

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Gregg Grinsteinner talking to his players during a timeout. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)

When one chapter ends, another begins.

This is how the Trinity Titans are viewing the upcoming 2021 Class B State Tournament in the Minot State Dome following their epic victory over Beulah in the regional tournament. With their goal of being triumphant over their regional rival complete, the task now stands at attempting to clinch the state title.

For Titans Head Coach Gregg Grinsteinner, the team had its fun and celebrated its accomplishment. Now, back to the drawing board.

“We’re on a mission,” he said. “We’re happy that we won the regional; we’re excited. We were emotional last week and now it’s time to turn back into business and we’re going up there as it being a business trip.”

“There’s some really good teams that are in the tournament, some very big teams, very athletic teams,” Grinsteinner added. “We’re going to have to do a lot of our little things well in order to compete, and I think that’s what we’ve challenged the guys with already.”

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In order to be prepared for Beulah, the 21-3 Titans endured one of their most challenging regular seasons in program history. Not only did the challenge pay off by winning regionals, the Titans have done battle with two of the teams in the tournament, earning a 64-41 victory against Shiloh Christian followed by a 62-57 victory over top-seeded Four Winds.

“Having to battle against some pretty good teams, our kids know it comes down to you've got to be able to make plays,” Grinsteinner said. “And you've got to be able to make plays that matter, that are not just the ones that happen in the fourth quarter — those are not just the ones that everybody sees and remembers the most. They've got to happen all four quarters. Our kids know that, and we’re preparing that way.”

The Titans' first matchup will not be an easy task to conquer as they square up against the lengthy 18-4 Kindred Vikings team, which features a lineup with eight of its 15 players being at least 6 foot, 3 inches. Senior Gavin Keller, the Vikings’ center, stands at a mighty 6 foot, 9 inches.

While the Titans have a roster with an average height of 6 feet tall, the team's three tallest players each stand at 6 foot, 3 inches.

“We've got a good matchup against Kindred. Kindred has played two or three teams that have been in the state tournament as well,” Grinsteinner said. “We’ll see. It’s going to be a battle of fruition of who is going to be able to outlast the opponent.”

As a result of the height differences, the Titans will be looking to lock down on defense as well as nabbing every rebound that comes their way.

“You’re not going to stop them on the glass, they’ve got too many bigs and what we have to do is make sure that we’re fundamentally sound and do our best to get ‘one and done,’ ” Grinsteinner said. “That’s what it has got to be.”

When asked what the game plan was primarily going to be, Grinsteinner replied that the team will take the classic approach of the late legendary head coach Jim Valvano and North Carolina State, ‘Survive and Advance," just as it was in the regional tournament. However, there was some modifications for the state tournament.

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“We’ve been talking about ‘you've got to survive the first quarter; you can’t go out there and dig yourself a hole where you’re trying to get out of it for four quarters,’” he said. “You've got to go out there and just be fundamentally sound, get your feet wet when you’re going up and down the court the first couple times, not trying to make the big play. Just make the simple play, and things will happen that way.’”

Grinsteinner added, “That’s survival. We talked about at the regional tournament — ‘survive and advance.’ Here we’re talking about surviving and advancing one quarter, just so you can get your feet ready to go and you can play the rest of the game.”

While the team will have to rely on every player doing their job swiftly and with minimal mistakes, the Titans’ seven seniors, including guard Jake Daniel and forward Tanner Soehren, will be heavily relied upon to help carry the Titans to victory.

“The biggest thing is we have to do it together as a team,” Grinsteinner said. “We can’t be guys trying to be that individual guy out there, because that’s not us. Just be us; be that team. Trust in each other. Trust the process that we’ve had all year, and then just go out and see what happens. Let the chips fall where they may.”

He then added, “I just hope that our seniors take the bull by the horns like they have all year and go and lead that way. I think it’s been a fun group. It’s been very rewarding. I want to see them end their careers on a high note, just going out and having no regrets.”

With this being the first time the Titans have made the tournament since 2017, for the majority of the Titans’ roster this will be their first time playing in the state tournament. As a result, many have their eyebrows raised with how good the Titans could be in this tournament.

Grinsteinner says this is not the time to get drowned by the moment.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but you can’t let the moment be too big. You've got to enjoy the moment,” he said.

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However, as with every coach, Grinsteinner hopes all of his players enjoy the three-game experience — especially with the long road the team took to get to this very moment.

“We want to have fun. We know it’s a game and we know it’s in a kind of a high-stakes environment with some of the best teams in all of North Dakota, but at the same time you've still got to be yourself, and that’s what I want our kids to do,” he said.

With the team now having a week to prepare for its upcoming state tournament matchup, only time will tell how the Titans will embrace the war that is to take place on the hardwood in Minot.

Trinity will battle Kindred at 8 p.m. MST and, if victorious, will play the winner of Four Winds and Shiloh Christian on Friday at 8 p.m. MST. However, if a loss would occur, then the Titans would play at 1:30 p.m. MST.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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