READING — Some of the Trinity boys basketball players were in diapers the last time the Shamrocks were playing for a PIAA championship. Some were barely walking.
Fifteen years ago, Larry Kostelac Jr.’s Shamrocks lost a rematch with Sto-Rox in the 2004 PIAA Class 2A championship (old classification). Trinity returns Saturday to Hershey’s Giant Center after upsetting District 12’s Bishop McDevitt 63-56 Tuesday night in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals.
— Jake Adams (@jakeadams520) March 20, 2019
The ‘Rocks will face District 7 champ Lincoln Park (25-4) at 2 in a Saturday matinee. The WPIAL champs beat Sharon 67-58 in Tuesday's other semi.
“It’s awesome,” senior forward Patrick Walker said. “It just tells us that we’re way better than we thought we were gonna be at the beginning of the year, and we have the most confidence right now that we’ve ever had.”
“It feels great to get back there,” Kostelac said. “It’s our sixth time at this game.”
A year after losing to Neumann-Goretti in a tight match at this stage, the Shamrocks got over the hump against another Philadelphia school, one that had just beaten the five-time defending state champs over the weekend to set up this matchup. The Shamrocks are hunting their third state crown.
The six-time defending District 3 champs flew out to an 11-2 lead, shooting well and playing sound defense. But, sure enough, the Lancers responded in kind with a 16-4 run to take an 18-14 lead after a quarter of play.
Harris puts back the carom at the buzzer to give @McDevittLancers an 18-14 lead over @RocksBoysBball after 1Q.— Jake Adams (@jakeadams520) March 19, 2019
He has 6, @pwalks12 leads all with 7 so far. @chancewestry1 with 5. pic.twitter.com/i2Ftvn8B11
Shamir Mosley sparked a run in the latter half of the period, scoring six points (4-of-5 on free throws) off the bench.
The rally didn’t surprise anyone on Trinity (26-3).
“It’s exactly the way we expected the game to go, to be perfectly candid,” Kostelac said. “They are a great basketball team. … We knew they were going to have a run of their own.”
But the Shamrocks didn’t fold. They held serve with the upstart Lancers — who had just six wins two years ago — through the second quarter. McDevitt (21-8) could never push the lead beyond a few possessions.
The largest reason for that was the sensational play of freshman guard Chance Westry, who pocketed 13 points in the half. With a Penn State offer in hand, the team’s 6-foot-3 leading scorer got to the foul line six times in the first 16 minutes, making all of them.
He wound up with arguably his biggest performance in the biggest stage of his young career, leading the game with 22 points and adding eight rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“It just naturally came,” Westry said. “And we worked as a team. They got on me, I got on them. And we put it together and got the victory.”
“He’s one of the best teammates in the world because he gives you the ball right where you want it every time, and you can give it to him and he’ll score any time he wants,” Walker said.
As Trinity continued to hang around after the break, Westry continued to provide crucial minutes. But Walker jumped in with much-needed help as well.
— Jake Adams (@jakeadams520) March 19, 2019
Held scoreless in the second quarter after a seven-point opening frame, Walker bounced back with 10 points after halftime. The pair slowly chipped away at McDevitt’s lead, eventually handing the Shamrocks a 43-42 lead with eight minutes left.
— Jake Adams (@jakeadams520) March 20, 2019
Walker added four boards and three assists to his 17 points, all while nursing a sore calf. It was a welcomed return to form after a two-point quarterfinal against New Hope-Solebury.
“Tonight he went out there and just performed,” Kostelac said.
“I knew that they were really aggressive and they were gonna go for blocks, so I could get in there and draw fouls,” Walker said. “And I think that’s what I did.”
Walker’s assessment was correct. The savvy vet finished 5-of-7 from the charity stripe. Trinity as a whole was 16-of-24, led by Walker and Westry. That duo, plus Matt Long, made several critical free throws late to ensure Trinity would make the jaunt across the river to Hershey.
“It was the crowd, the intensity,” Westry said when asked about trying to make his fourth-quarter free throws. “When the intensity picked up, I started to get a little ... you feel me?”
Fouls hampered both teams. Senior center Kalen Veres was held to just two points, three boards and three assists for Trinity battling foul trouble all night.
And counterpart Jamil Menigo finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds, but he fouled out in the waning minutes of a two-possession game. Mosley (team-high 14 points) followed him a bit later.
Marcus Beckett knocked down a third-quarter 3 and finished with 11 points, also fueling Trinity’s late push. Long drilled a crushing 3-ball in the fourth quarter, finishing with seven points.
Trinity shot 22-of-43 from the field, including 13-of-19 in the second half. The defense held McD to just 21-of-57 shooting.