LANCASTER – The clock struck midnight for Trinity boys basketball as it fell to Eastside, 50-49, in the final seconds Saturday night at Eastside High School, ending its storybook season in the CIF-State Division V Championships Regional Semifinals.
“This is a special team and a special moment,” said Trinity head coach Aaron Southwick. “I’m just proud that I got to be a part of it. I’m thankful. I love these guys and they’re resilient.”
After trailing the Lions for the entire game, senior Peyton Frazier gave the Knights their first lead of the night with just five seconds remaining in the contest. He danced around the court before driving to the basket to lay in the biggest basket of his career and put Trinity up by one point.
“It was fun. The whole team was excited about it,” Frazier said. “We played hard that whole game and we played hard that whole season, so to be up by one with five seconds left, we were all excited.”
The small gym roared as if thousands were inside. Trinity basketball players swarmed Frazier and the students nearly exploded onto the court, unable to contain their excitement.
“We played excellent,” said Trinity senior Kyle Fields. “Our whole thing this season has been third quarter and these past few games we’ve really been a fourth-quarter team. Our mentality was come out in the second half and finish strong. We knew our season was on the line and I think that was our inspiration to get lead in the final seconds.”
However, the excitement didn’t last long. After a short timeout, the Lions regained their composure and utilized the final five seconds to knock down a clutch basket, draw the foul for the and-1 and leave less than a second on the clock to deflate the Knights.
“We’re upset, of course,” Frazier said. “We wanted to go all the way. At the start of the season, we were just trying to get past the first round. We’re a small school and each of these guys fought hard.”
Those two plays would have never happened if it weren’t for the previous 31-minute and 55-second battle that the two teams orchestrated throughout the game.
The Knights quickly fell in the first quarter but were able to tie it up with just seconds remaining in the first act. Junior Will Yumbar knocked down a clutch putback to tie the game at 10. However, the Lions sunk a buzzer-beater to restore their two-point lead as both teams headed into the second quarter, 12-10.
That’s when Eastside began to run away with the game for a little while. The Lions took advantage of the length their roster boasts to steal rebounds and create second and third chance scoring opportunities.
The Lions were able to stretch their lead as far as 11 points in the second act. The size mismatch led to a halftime score of 25-16, with Eastside on top.
However, Trinity refused to be pushed around, which is what it has done all season, playing as an underdog more often than not. The Knights adjusted to the size mismatch and clawed back into a double-digit Lions lead on multiple occasions.
“Just compete, that’s all you can do,” Southwick said. “That what our guys did. They competed their hardest and I’m proud of them.”
There were two keys to Trinity’s ability to hang with Eastside for 32 minutes. The first was Trinity taking the pace of the game into its own hands. That is something the Knights have excelled at all season.
The second was a barrage of 3-pointers from Fields and sophomore John Cervantes-King. Clutch shots kept the game close throughout the second half and helped narrow the gap between the Lions and Knights.
“During practice all season we’ve been working to create shots for ourselves,” Fields said. “We’ve worked on hitting those big shots. Situational basketball. John and I did a good job of stepping up to the plate and hitting big shots like that.”
Cervantes-King attributed the open attack to the entire team, not just the shooters.
“The reason I’m getting those shots off is because of my teammates,” he said. “Everyone’s a part of one three. If Kyle gets a three, he gets open because of a screen or someone’s driving and his person has to help and Kyle’s open or I’m open. The team does a good job of getting us open and getting us the shots we need to get back in it.”
A combination of those two pieces to the Trinity attack led to the heart-pounding final seconds and the eventual heartbreaking loss for the Knights. Their Cinderella story ends, but a tough loss like this will leave them hungry to come back in 2021 and finish what they started.
“All of us younger guys got this experience – going three rounds of state – and we’re going to use that next year to try and go further and get to the state championship,” Cervantes-King said.