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Prep boys basketball: Trinity raises the bar

Ambitious athletic program reaches biggest game in school history

Posted: March 2, 2013 10:44 p.m.
Updated: March 2, 2013 10:44 p.m.

SANTA ANA — Immediately following every CIF championship game, a small ceremony takes place on the court where the champions and runners up receive plaques.

On Saturday morning at Mater Dei High School following the Trinity Classical Academy Knights’ 47-40 loss to the Rio Hondo Prep Kares of Arcadia in the CIF-Southern Section Division VI championship game, Trinity boys basketball head coach John Brooks was handed the runner-up plaque.

He glanced at it for one second then tucked it under his arm.

“(My former coach) John Clark called me last night to wish me well. He said an old coach of his told him right before his championship game, ‘Remember John, you want the blue plaque,’” Brooks explained about what he was thinking when he glanced at his team’s plaque. “John called me and said the same thing. I didn’t get the blue plaque.”

John Clark’s 1987 Saugus Centurions remain the only Santa Clarita Valley team to win a boys basketball CIF championship.

But it might be a matter of time before that drought is over.

The disappointment Brooks felt looking at the runner-up plaque is a representation of the ambition that has always been at Trinity Classical Academy.

Before the high school even opened five years ago, its coaches were taking aim at a CIF title.

The football team has been to CIF-Southern Section Division II 8-man semifinals the last two seasons.

Trinity basketball, with seven freshmen, four sophomores and one junior played in the school’s first CIF title game.

“This will be the first of many,” Brooks said. “Not just in basketball, but football and baseball. Liz Caddow, our founder, her philosophy is strive for excellence from the faculty to the students.”

So the disappointment on the kids’ faces after the loss was in keeping with that philosophy.

But at the same time, it was the first sign that these kids understood the magnitude of the game.

Many of them baby-faced, they gave off a naiveté about the situation — like what they were playing for and where they were playing were nothing more than just a basketball game.

And that made them a dangerous team because the pressure wasn’t on them.

They played well, but scoring was an issue.

Their best all-around player Ryan Brooks was held to just two shots in the second half, as Rio Hondo Prep refused to let him have the ball.

Trinity’s leading scorer Spencer Klehn, meanwhile, was kept from being an offensive player in the game.

It forced others to try and carry the offensive load.

And despite an outstanding defensive effort, with the Kares scoring 10 less points than their season average, Trinity couldn’t pull it out.

And after the game, it finally hit some of the Knights what had happened to them.

Freshman starter Michael Mateo sat on the bench before the postgame ceremony began and had a look on his face like his first love had broken up with him. He sat and looked stunned, sad and searching for answers.

“It didn’t sink in playing for such a big prize,” he said about how he felt before the game. “It felt pretty bad (after). But we’re still young. We have a bright future.”

A couple of seats next to him, freshman point guard Marco Escribano sat with both of his arms around the seats next to him. He looked to the rafters at Mater Dei High School, beyond the numerous CIF championship banners that the storied state powerhouse school has attained over the years.

“I’m thanking God for the moment he gave us,” he said of what he was thinking. “I was also really mad, but didn’t want to show it. My team worked hard.”

But he did show his anger or disappointment or whatever one wants to call it. He showed emotion.

The Knights expected to win the game.

One reason being is they’ve accomplished so much in such a short time.

Escribano didn’t have the best shooting night, going 2-for-10 with five points, but he showed off an array of skills — ball-handling ability, floor generalship, defense, heart. The sort of things that would translate to any varsity team.

His skills are so exciting, the 2010 Foothill League co-Player of the Year and one of the few basketball players in the SCV to earn a playing scholarship to an NCAA Division I school Trevor Wiseman, took him under his wing.

Escribano said he has heard what others in the valley think of little Trinity.

With or without a championship, maybe the third-year varsity program proved something Saturday.

“(Others) think (Trinity’s) a joke. They see us now in a CIF championship, it’s no joke,” Escribano said. “We’ve got a lot of underrated players. I’m glad we got to this point. Now all of California knows who we are.”



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