Trinity weathered an early barrage of perimeter shots from Alabama Christian, then outscored the Eagles in the second and third quarters to win the area opener for both teams, 51-49, on Friday night in the ACA gym.
ACA took charge early with perimeter shooting as Braxton Alford scored all nine of his points on a trio of 3-pointers. Carson Hunt added another to stake the Eagles to an early 18-8 lead but the Wildcats settled down and rallied with a 20-point second quarter to take a 28-24 lead at the half.
“I think our pressure got to them,” Trinity coach Matt Arrighi said. “Early, they hit a lot of shots. Give them credit, but we had a lot of defensive breakdowns where we were gambling and over ‘helping’ and not seeing some guys who were back cutting on us. But in the third quarter, I think our pressure finally caught up to them.”
The Wildcats hit their free throws and got a trio of buckets in the paint from Parker Hughes, but ACA was hampered as well by the loss of Hunt, who went down early in the second quarter with an ankle injury and tried to return briefly before sitting out the remainder of the game.
“That hurt,” ACA coach Scott Galloway said. “He came out in the second quarter and the game changed.”
Of course, part of the change could be attributed to an offensive drought. Other than a pair of Jalen Clark baskets, the Eagles missed every shot from the field in the second quarter.
“I think a lot of that (scoring spurt by Trinity) was our offense wasn’t clicking like it was in the first quarter,” Galloway said. “When you don’t score, they get rebounds. They can run the break off of misses better than they can off of makes and we were doing more missing than making in the second quarter.”
The fastbreak points continued to pile up for the Wildcats in the third quarter. ACA’s offense got untracked late in the quarter to keep the Eagles within striking distance, but a pair of layups from both Grant Sanderson and Will Aaron gave the Wildcats a double-digit lead before ACA trimmed the deficit to eight points entering the fourth quarter.
Trinity’s attempt to hold the ball almost backfired as the Wildcats connected on just 2 of 10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“You work on them like crazy, but they’ve got to make them in a game,” Arrighi said. “We hit some early, but when they counted down the stretch, we missed a lot of big free throws.”
ACA, meanwhile, got 3-pointers from Ben Johnson and Reece Solar, then almost converted a pair of three-point plays (Johnson missed his follow-up free throw) when Johnson and Clark made a pair of acrobatic layups in traffic late, energizing the crowd and pulling ACA within a point before the Wildcats were able to run out the clock.
“I was proud of the way the guys hung in there,” Galloway said. “We had some tough buckets, too.”
Both teams are now 3-4, although Trinity is 1-0 in 4A Area 4 play.
“It’s huge, especially on the road,” Arrighi said. “You don’t like the way you finished the game, but just getting out of here with a win is big for us.”
Galloway downplayed the area-opening loss at home.
“We’ll recover from it,” he said. “It all boils down to the area tournament, anyway. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
Both coaches are looking for consistency as the holiday break approaches.
“We’re in spurts and spells,” Arrighi said. “Some spells, I’m really pleased with how we’re playing and what we’re doing, but then we’ll go through five, six-minute spells where we turn it over 75 percent of the time we have the ball. We’ve got to build consistency. We’re struggling to stay in the flow on offense, particularly early in the game. We just have to get off to better starts.”
Hughes led Trinity with 12 points, while Clark had 15 for ACA.
“I think we’re playing about as good as we shoot,” Galloway said. “When we shoot well, things go well. We need to work on not being so dependent on the outside shot. We’ve got to figure out what works best and use it.”
In the girls’ matchup, Trinity guard Emma Kate Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers to help her team expand a two-point halftime lead to 11 points before Alabama Christian rallied late to trim the deficit to a point.
Josie Barlow’s running perimeter shot just ahead of the buzzer was ruled inside the 3-point arc, leaving the Eagles a point short in a 48-47 loss in the 4A Area 4 opener for both teams.
Trinity (6-4) got out to an early lead with an 18-point first quarter before ACA pulled back into the contest at the half, trailing 28-26. That’s when Smith caught fire with a pair of 3s and Mackenzie Avant added another as the Wildcats ran out to a 46-35 lead.
“I always wrestle with, do you keep pushing the pace or slow it down?” Trinity coach Blake Smith said. “And I slowed it down. We did all right for a little while, then we started missing free throws and some easy baskets. They got some baskets in transition. I feel like we can stall pretty well. We missed a lot of free throws.”
Avant made the only points of the quarter for the Wildcats on separate trips to the free-throw line as Trinity was just 2 of 14 from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes. ACA, meanwhile, got a pair of baskets from Lindsey Glass and Michaelyn Manning to climb back into the game.
“They’re a scrappy bunch,” Smith said. “I was real impressed with how they fought back.”
ACA coach Mike Anderson said his team wasn’t consistent enough in its area opener.
“In spurts, we played real well,” Anderson said. “The kids played hard. We’ve played pretty well. We shot it pretty well in the first half. The biggest thing we’ve got to work on right now is rebounding.”
Smith, meanwhile, liked what he saw from his team while it was building a lead against the Eagles.
“I think we’re playing well, but we’ve got room to improve,” he said. “If we shoot the ball well, I feel like we can play with a lot of teams. It was nice to kind of grind one out.”
Barlow and Glass each led the Eagles with 15 points each, while Smith and Arant had 13 points each for Trinity.