Trinity Classical Academy came up just short of a CIF-Southern Section title Saturday afternoon after losing to Banning High School. However, that doesn’t end the season for the Knights. They still have their eyes on the biggest prize in California; a State title.
“We lost tonight but that doesn’t change anything,” said head coach Aaron Southwick after the loss to Banning in the CIF-SS Championship Game. “We keep going and we get back out there on Monday.”
The pressure of trying to win a CIF-SS Championship is huge, but taking State is a whole different ball game. Trinity handled opponents in the Southern Section with poise and confidence, even taking Banning to the final seconds after falling behind by 15 points in the third quarter.
Now, the Knights will be pitted against teams from all over the state, with little reference to how they match up against them. However, Southwick is as aloof as ever and shows a lot of confidence in his team, despite the bigger stage.
“It’s another five games,” he said. “We’ve been here before and I think we’re prepared for it.”
Perhaps his calmness is well deserved. It has been a while since the Knights have gone this deep in the playoffs, but this season alone, they are no strangers to the big stage.
The Knights have played in three championship games during the 2019-20 campaign; the Battle for SoCal Tournament, the Fillmore Tournament and now the CIF-SS Ford Boys Basketball Division 5A Championships.
“We’ve been in three championship games this year. Mentally, we’re prepared,” Southwick said. “This team has stayed together and played together. I don’t doubt that we’re going to stay together. We’ve done it all year. Whether we’ve won or lost, we stayed together as a team.”
Trinity has yet to win a championship game this season. However, they always show out for them. The Knights have not lost in a title match by a large margin and hold their opponents to some of their lowest point totals of the entire season.
Throughout the season, defense has been the key to Trinity’s success, said Southwick in a phone interview before the CIF-SS Championship Game. That and precise execution as a defense.
Southwick’s players feel confident in the Trinity defense, as well. Junior Will Yumbar has expressed trust in his teammates throughout the season.
“Knowing that if I overplay, Kyle or John’s going to come and help me out,” Yumbar said of what he likes about the defense ahead of the CIF-SS Championship Game. “They know that if they let their guy come by, I’m going to be there to stop him.”
However, with a different tournament, the Knights will need to readjust their mindset, especially with it beginning so shortly after a championship loss.
“Other than winning, just staying sharp mentally,” Southwick said of what his team needs to do to stick around in the state tournament. “You really need to concentrate. We’ll work on that stuff Monday.”
The CIF State tournament will take a lot from the players mentally. Each team is in the tournament for a reason: they are one of the best teams in the state.
“I’m expecting them to understand the situation that we’re in and rise to the challenge,” Southwick said.
The Knights will also be calling upon their fans to support them throughout the tournament and bring the energy to the bleachers.
“We love our fans and we love having them at the games,” Southwick said. I’m hopeful they keep coming out and supporting us.”
State pairings will be released on Sunday.