LOWER PAXTON TWP. — Trinity avenged two previous losses to Steel-High this season with a 55-46 victory in the District 3 Class 3A semifinals to advance to the title game as the Shamrocks seek their fifth straight District 3 championship.
Trinity (No. 3, 19-5) didn’t get on the scoreboard for nearly the game’s first three minutes, but two 3-pointers from Patrick Walker and Matt Long propelled the Shamrocks to an early 10-4 lead.
Steel-High responded with eight unanswered points to take the lead before Long cut through the Rollers’ defense for a layup to even the score as time wound down in the first quarter.
Steel-High (No. 2, 15-8) was very active on defense as the zone tried to fluster the Shamrocks and force turnovers. But Trinity remained patient and emphasized ball movement to find seams in the zone where it could get open looks.
“They are so unorthodox and so athletic,” Trinity head coach Larry Kostelac Jr. said. “It’s not a standard 3-2 zone, but it’s a lot of moving parts with a lot of traps and lot of gambling. You have to be able to handle the ball, which means dribble penetrate and pass-and-catch by coming to meet the ball. We were going against six, seven guys in practice because that’s what we knew we would see.
“We also thought the best way to attack them was to spread them out and attack the gaps. I thought, for the most part, our kids did a terrific job of that.”
Every time Trinity pushed their advantage out, Steel-High had answers with offensive spurts to keep them in contact.
But the Shamrocks held the Rollers scoreless for the final 3:40 before halftime, reeling off seven straight points punctuated by two excellent assists from Long, who found Sean Good for a dunk and Walker for a close-range bucket.
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Matt Scarpelli added a bucket, and Kalen Veres knocked down two free throws to extend the lead to 36-27 at the break.
Trinity senior Jack Bucher drew the assignment on Rollers’ high scorer Tim Kater and focused on denying him the ball in open spots on the floor. Behind first-year coach Tristan Crawford, Steel-High struggled to run anything to free Kater up, and the Army football commit ended up with only eight points before fouling out with 1:26 left.
“I thought Jack did a terrific job,” Kostelac Jr. said. “I was so happy to see him step up to the line at the end of the game and make shots. He needs to see the ball go through the basket. He’s been struggling. But he’s a good shooter and a good player. He’s doing everything else like crazy. He just needs to put that ball in the hole.”
With Kater neutralized, the Steel-High offensive plan amounted to point guard Jarvai Flowers penetrating into the teeth of the Shamrocks defense, driving to the basket and drawing contact.
Flowers turned in a game-high 20 points, whereas Trinity distributed the scoring pretty evenly as Walker and Scarpelli tallied 11 points while Long added 10.
Trinity went the last 4:09 without center Good, who banged his head off the floor while battling for a rebound with Flowers.
The 6-foot-11 senior did tick off another milestone before exiting the game; the Lafayette commit blocked nine shots, pushing him to 502 in his career. With six rebounds in the game, Good also stands on the precipice of an impressive milestone. He remains six rebounds short of the rarefied air of 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 blocks in his high school career.
Trinity will face the No. 1 seed Kutztown Cougars (20-4), 49-48 winners over fourth-seed Lancaster Mennonite, on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at Hershey’s Giant Center.