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Prep boys basketball: Their Knight

Trinity advances to CIF-SS Division VI championship game

Posted: February 22, 2013 10:46 p.m.
Updated: February 22, 2013 10:46 p.m.

Trinity Classical Academy's Colton Oshiro, right, carries teammate freshman Marco Escribano (25) as the Knights celebrate their win over Joshua Springs in a CIF-Southern Section Division VI semifinal game on Friday at Santa Clarita Christian School.

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A year ago, the Trinity Knights boys basketball team knew it had something special in a crop of seven incoming freshman.

But even the Trinity faithful couldn’t have known that group — with some help from a junior and a sophomore — would be the core of the Knights’ first CIF-Southern Section finalist team in school history.

The Knights defeated the Joshua Springs Lightning 61-53 on Friday night at Santa Clarita Christian School in the CIF-SS Division VI semifinals to advance to next week’s title game.

“It’s going to be a special time,” said Trinity head coach John Brooks of the championship game. “We’ve been talking about it for a long time. About 10 games into the season, I told these kids they have a chance.”

Freshman Michael Mateo came up big in the first half, scoring nine points on his way to a 13-point day.

Another freshman, Marco Escribino added six and used his quickness to help the Knights (18-5) break a demanding Joshua Springs press that caused problems in the second half.

But the talented freshman class wouldn’t be on its way to a title game without one elder statesman — junior Spencer Klehn.

Klehn scored a team-high 21 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and was in the middle of nearly every hustle play.

“Spencer’s a hard worker and he’ll get every loose ball. He goes up for every rebound,” Brooks said.

To say Trinity fielded a young team in the game is an understatement. The Knights’ roster boasts seven freshman, four sophomores, and just one junior and one senior.

“It forced me to take the part of teacher,” said Klehn of playing with so many younger kids. “It made me more of an active leader.”

They needed him on Friday, after Joshua Springs (20-6) stormed back from a 34-23 deficit early in the second half to take a 47-46 lead in the fourth quarter on a layup by Chase Sweetman (23 points and 10 rebounds).

“The guys gave us everything they’ve got,” said Joshua Springs head coach Brandon Newby. “For them to give us that type of energy and take the lead, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

But that’s when Klehn was at his best, scoring eight fourth-quarter points.

With 1 minute, 19 seconds remaining and Trinity clinging to a 52-49 lead, it was Klehn on the receiving end of a pass from Mateo for an alley-oop style layup.

And less than a minute later, it was Klehn again putting up a layup off a pass from Mateo to make it 56-50.

Those final minutes were chaotic, with both teams turning the ball over and neither team finding the flow that had gotten them to that point.

It became almost a battle of who could calm down first, and the winner was Trinity.

“We were the first team that relaxed. We calmed down and were able to execute on offense and take care of the ball,” Mateo said.

The fact that the teams featured contrasting styles was evident early, with the Lightning ready and willing to shoot from anywhere on the court and the Knights looking to feed the ball into post.

That’s where Knights’ sophomore Ryan Brooks did most of his damage, scoring 16 points, including six in the final quarter.

Joshua Springs opened up an early 10-point lead, with their shots falling and Trinity trying to adjust.

“When we play against a good three-point shooter we just extend the floor,” John Brooks said. “They get further back and rush shots.”

The adjustments worked, as the Knights went on a 13-4 run to start the second quarter before Joshua Springs cut it to seven at the break.

The Lightning surprised Trinity out of the locker room, switching to a full-court press that led directly to six Joshua Springs’ points after a layup, two steals and two more layups on consecutive possessions to make it 34-29.

But just like they had in the first half, the Knights adjusted again, and now they’re on their way to a CIF-SS championship game to play Rio Hondo Prep.

The CIF-SS championship game schedule will be released on Monday at noon. The game will either be played at Anaheim Arena or Mater Dei High School. Tickets will be available from Trinity on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. For more information visit www.CIF-SS.org.

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