Nigel Card doesn’t take credit for the inbounds play. He’s quick to point out he stole it from the San Antonio Spurs.
On Friday night, wherever it came from, it proved to be fatal for Trinity.
With every Wildcat focused on Tyler Pines with 2.2 seconds left, Andrew Sadie found himself all alone under the basket, catching the inbounds pass and putting it in at the buzzer to give the Trojans a 39-38 victory in the St. James gym.
“I was going to go set a screen for Tyler,” Sadie said, “and we knew they were probably going to focus on Tyler. So when they went off, everyone clung to him and I was just wide open.”
Sadie scored a game-high 16 points, but the last two were the hardest.
“I was very scared,” he admitted, “because I saw it roll around (the rim) and I thought I was going to miss but thankfully it went in.”
St. James had led most of the first three quarters in a defensive struggle, but trailed for almost the entire fourth quarter before Pines, who had 10, hit a baseline floater with 40 seconds left. On Trinity’s ensuing possession, Parker Hughes missed a 3-point attempt with five seconds left, but Grant Sanderson rebounded and was fouled going back up with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Sanderson, who had spent much of his evening holding Pines in check, stepped to the line, encouraged the noise from the St. James student section, and then calmly knocked down both attempts for his only points of the game to give his team a 38-37 lead, setting up the improbable finish.
“When they flow with that one player, then that first guy (that sets the screen) is going to have a chance to be open,” St. James coach Nigel Card said. “That’s what I was banking on. Hey, they could’ve played it solid. But tonight it worked. Every now and then, a coach has one of those moments where he looks good.”
For Trinity, it was a staggering setback, their sixth loss in a row.
“First off, I give credit to Nigel,” Arrighi said. “They had a nice little play set up, knowing that we would focus on Pines to where they just slipped that screen. Our guys didn’t communicate well. We had the defense set up like we wanted, we had the help on Pines where we wanted and we didn’t need the guy to come off his guy. The wrong guy was trying to help and they just caught us.”
Trinity (6-10) got off to a slow start and fell behind, but gradually pulled back into the contest as Sanderson, then Will Aaron, then James Davis took turns guarding Pines.
“We know who our best defenders are and we feel good with two or three of them,” Arrighi said. “We didn’t want to kill our best players on him, we wanted to try and keep them fresh. I feel good about our defensive game plan, but we got off to a slow start and that didn’t help.”
Hughes and Aaron each finished with a team-high 12 points, with Aaron’s four 3-pointers helping to pull his team even with the Trojans in the third quarter.
“Will’s been playing great basketball all year, but especially since Christmas,” Arrighi said. “He’s consistently hitting three or four outside shots a game. He’s shooting the ball with a lot of confidence.”
Pines, meanwhile, would score just two points in the second half as the Wildcat defense neutralized him.
“We still have to work around that,” Card said. “I have to get him to understand I can’t change the strategies of the other team. If they’re going to box-and-one him, we still have to play the game. When you stop playing because they have multiple people on you, then we’re all in trouble. It’s a little bit of a disadvantage, but you’ve got to trust your teammates that they will do what it takes to help you win that game.”
Sadie and his teammates understood the dilemma.
“Tyler always does a great job every night,” Sadie said. “He always comes out and plays his best, so I think a lot of us on the team need to step up and help him and I think a lot of players stepped up tonight. I think everyone on our team gave their heart out. Even when we were up, everyone was still playing their hardest or when we were down. We just never lost hope.”
As a result, the rebuilding Trojans (6-11) have won back-to-back games for the first time this season as they face area rival Bullock County at home on Tuesday.
“When you’ve got kids who will come out every day with a great attitude and will compete, regardless of what’s happening to them, you have a chance to get them to really buy in and get better,” Card said.
Trinity, 2-1 in area play, also faces a crucial area game on Tuesday, traveling to LAMP in what Arrighi called a “must-win” game for the Wildcats if they hope to host the upcoming area tournament.
St. James rattled off seven straight points to rally from a second-half deficit and took control late for a 41-37 victory over Trinity in the St. James gym on Friday night.
Emily Olsey hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and added another in the fourth to help the Trojans snap a four-game losing streak and defeat their arch rival.
“She came out and shot with confidence and that was great,” St. James coach Katie Barton said. “I think our defensive pressure helped lead to some of the offensive spark. I truly think that that helped spark our offensive run and then we had to hit some shots down there and Emily did a great job of stepping up and knocking down shots when we needed her to.”
Emma Kate Smith scored eight of her 10 points in the second quarter to help Trinity (12-7) grab a five-point lead at halftime. Still trailing by five points late in the third, Olsey hit a 3-pointer, Ashley White banked in a short jumper and Seanna Brooks added a basket to lift the Trojans to a two-point lead before Brooke Avant nailed a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats back on top. Olsey responded with another 3-pointer to give St. James the lead for good at 28-25.
“We lost our poise for a few minutes,” Smith said, before quickly correcting himself. “Not them. I lost my poise. It starts with me. You’ve got to remain calm. They’re tough and they fight. It’s going to be a physical game.”
White scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half, but Olsey did as well as her perimeter shots opened things up in the paint for White.
“That’s what you’re going to give up if you’re trying to contain Ashley,” Smith said. “I knew (Olsey) could shoot. She impressed me, the way she shot, but Ashley’s a handful. You wrestle with, ‘Do you let her score 30 and don’t give up 3s?’”
St. James (12-6) snapped a four-game losing streak with the win, just in time for area rival Bullock County, which visits the Trojans on Tuesday. Trinity returns to area play as well, traveling to LAMP on Tuesday.