ENOLA — At times, head coach Larry Kostelac Jr. was far from pleased by his players’ performance.
But he could not be upset with the end product.
Trinity boys basketball pulled away in the second half of the PIAA Class 3A first round with a lights-out shooting performance to beat High School of the Future 82-63 Saturday evening at East Pennsboro High School.
Fueled by an astounding 29 assists, the Shamrocks shot a superb 22-of-28 in the second half and 36-of-57 for the game. The effort in the final 16 minutes turned a 31-27 game into a comfortable margin of victory.
The six-time defending District 3 champs (23-3) got distribution throughout the lineup, with Patrick Walker, Kalen Veres, Ben Patten and Aley Zangari each handing out at least three assists.
But it was dynamic freshman Chance Westry who shined in this one, feeding his teammates for scores nine times. The guard finished one assist shy of a triple-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in one of his best offensive games of the season.
“I wanted that bad, because I never had a triple-double,” said the Westry, who recently picked up an offer from Penn State.
“We got a lot of guys getting passes from him and from others going right to the rim,” Kostelac said. “No dribble. That’s a coach’s dream.”
What worked particularly well was parking Westry at the top of the key while teammates made crisp cuts, typically backdoor against an aggressive Phoenix defense.
Westry, Kostelac and Walker all said Future (12-11) was overly aggressive in passing lanes, and the ‘Rocks noticed that quickly. In short order they started picking the District 12 team apart along the baseline. And once Future tried to adjust, the Shamrocks used simply passed out of those cuts for other cutters or open jumpers.
“They were jumping the passing lanes, and you gotta go backdoor,” Kostelac said. “We thought the backdoor was there, our kids made some tremendous passes.”
“They were overplaying a lot,” Walker said. “And they were overplaying the passing lanes, so we just go and cut backdoor layup.”
The two biggest beneficiaries of those cuts were Walker and Veres. Trinity’s talented front court pairing scored nearly all of their points — a game-high 20 for Walker, 14 for Veres — within arm’s length of the basket. It was easy pickings.
“They played so well,” Kostelac said. “And Patrick, had he not been in foul trouble [three fouls early in the third quarter], he would’ve had a huge night.”
Trinity’s wrinkle on offense of stationing Westry at the foul line in halfcourt sets did wonders. The freshman has elite court vision for his age, and planting there allowed him to utilize his talents in a unique way.
He could hit those backdoor cuts, kick it out to the wing for the offense to cycle the ball, or drive to the rim if he had a good one-on-one matchup. On one particular sequence in the fourth quarter, he shot-faked a defender sprinting from behind the play, sending him airborne as the crowd roared. Westry said after he didn’t even know the player was behind him until he went leaping by.
“Normally he’s not there, but we thought we could get him the ball there and did,” Kostelac said. “And he just sees everything. He’s gifted enough to be able to complete plays.”
“I actually love that, I love that spot,” Westry said. “Because when I get it, I see others running. I kick it to ‘em, I take it to the basket — it opens everything up.”
It was not a flawless game, however. Trinity gave up some head-scratching turnovers — 20 in total and the majority of them in the first half. Some of them were from trying to get too fancy, others were just missed passes.
And Future had surprising success getting looks at the rim despite having a clear disadvantage height-wise.
The Phoenix were an impressively stead squad that seemed unfazed and emotionless, even during the game’s tense moments. Kygil Blount led the team with 14 points, including three 3s that caught the Shamrocks off guard.
“They play hard,” Westry said. “They play hard and fast, they’re athletic.”
Trinity won on the glass 38-23. Walker and Veres each had six rebounds, and Walker added four steals, according to Trinity’s stats. Zangari iced the game with 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Trinity will face Holy Redeemer in Wednesday’s second round at Pottsville’s Martz Hall at 8. The D2 runner-up (20-5) beat Wellsboro 46-42.