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Prep boys basketball: Triumph delayed

Trinity falls in first title-game appearance, but is loaded for the future

Posted: March 2, 2013 10:43 p.m.
Updated: March 2, 2013 10:43 p.m.

Trinity Classical Academy's Marco Escribano (25), left, shoots against Rio Hondo Prep defender Isaac Holguin (12) during the CIF-Southern Section Division VI final at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana on Saturday.

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SANTA ANA — It was a plan the Trinity Classical Academy Knights had stuck with all season long — attack the basket and good things will happen.

That was the philosophy that helped Trinity reach Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division VI final at Mater Dei High School, and the Knights had every intention of sticking to the gameplan when they met up with the Rio Hondo Prep Kares.

But it was something their opponents knew as well, and when the Knights were forced to go to plan B, things didn’t quite work out in a 47-40 loss.

With the Kares (21-7) clogging passing lanes into the interior and forcing the Knights (18-6)into a perimeter game, Trinity was going to have to win this game with the jumpshot.

“We have good shooters, too,” said Trinity head coach John Brooks. “When you play 25 games you’ll have games where there’s a lid on the basket. You just don’t want it to be the championship.”

Trinity was held to just 37.2 percent from the field, and made 4-of-17 3-point attempts in the contest.

If there were any doubts that the Knights planned to stick with their usual gameplan, it was made evident on the first two possessions when Ryan Brooks attacked the basket and scored on layups in the lane.

But as the game wore on, the Kares continued to hunker down on defense.

With 6-foot, 6-inch Rio Hondo forward Ryan Wiley guarding him, the defensive pressure had a big effect on Trinity’s leading scorer, Spencer Klehn.

“I was trying to deny the ball. I didn’t want him to get the ball on the block since he weighs more.” Wiley said.

Trinity’s high scorer on the season scored just four points, all in the first half.

Wiley was also a force on the offensive end, scoring 16 points, almost exclusively in the paint.

“We had to take advantage of our size inside,” said Rio Hondo Prep head coach Ken Drain. “And we did enough to win.”

Wiley also provided the signature moment of the contest, moving the ball up court in transition, carving through three Trinity players and dunking the ball for a 13-12 lead in the second quarter.

Trinity wouldn’t lead again.

Still, it was an uncharacteristic night for Wiley, who averages 22 points per game, as the Knights emphasized closing down on him and making other guys beat them.

“We watched film on him and we simulated him in practice. He’s been averaging about 30 points the whole playoffs,” Ryan Brooks said. “I think we did a good job stopping him.”

What they likely weren’t counting on, though, was guard Christian Torrico.

After providing a late 3-pointer to help the Kares advance past the semifinal stage in a win over Desert Chapel on March 25, the senior followed that up with a game-high 19 points on Saturday.

Still, the Knights remained in striking distance through three quarters, and a 3-pointer by Andrew Pablan to start the fourth quarter pulled them within 36-35.

But the shots stopped falling down the stretch, as the Knights went on a six-minute scoring drought.

“What’s hard is Ryan and Matthew Mateo really can attack the basket and score and we didn’t do that as well as we could have,” John Brooks said. “Every time we did that good things happened.”

The Knights received a jolt off the bench from freshman Ian Caddow, whose driving layup ended the drought and pulled Trinity within 42-37 with 1:40 to play. He finished with six points, all in the second half.

Pablan also scored six and freshman Marco Escribano had five.

A high-arcing three from the right corner from Pablan cut the lead to 42-40 with a minute remaining, but Trinity was shut down from there, and the Kares made their free throws to protect the lead.

The win was the first CIF-SS title in the Rio Hondo Prep boys program’s history and the first title-game appearance for Trinity in any sport.

And judging by the makeup of the Knights’ roster, there’s a good chance they could make a return trip to the finals in the coming years.

The junior Klehn and sophomore Brooks joined seven freshmen on this season’s squad.

“One of the positive things we can get out of this,” Escribano said, “is now we want it more than ever.”

The Knights’ season isn’t over just yet, though. As Division VI finalists, they earn an automatic bid into the CIF-State Division V tournament, beginning Wednesday.

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