By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
For The Signal
The Trinity Classical Knights (15-4) are the new 5-A state champions after defeating the San Fernando Tigers (10-1), 49-33 Saturday night in San Fernando.
The visiting Knights rolled into the game confidently with the same goal in mind as always: play hard defense and run in transition. Each team has had equally minimal problems as of late with both being on 10-game win streaks and both having a 17.7-point average margin of victory in those 10 games.
Junior Kelly Lotz was at the helm of that transition game, leading the team on breaks and exploding early, scoring 14 of the team’s 19 first-quarter points. The captain finished with 32 points, nearly outscoring San Fernando by herself. Lotz was just short of the double-double with nine rebounds, going 10 of 14 from the free-throw line.
“Honestly, I’m kind of speechless right now,” said Lotz. “We never thought this is where we were going to be. We were preparing for next year with us having a younger team, but we just worked harder. We worked harder than any other team.”
After Trinity established a solid 10-point lead in the first, both teams cranked up the defense.
San Fernando switched to a defense that gave Lotz more attention and successfully held Trinity to five points in the second. However, San Fernando could not find the basket on the other end. Tigers forward Katherine Sanchez hit a three in the Tigers’ first possession but the team failed to register another point the entire quarter. Sanchez led San Fernando with nine points.
Trinity got more aggressive on offense in the third quarter and poured in 18 points with other Knights taking the scoring load off of Lotz, putting pressure all over San Fernando’s defense.
Knights point guard Lily Caddow made an impact everywhere, registering 10 points, six boards, three assists and a steal.
“Our game plan the whole year is: just outrun the other team and play really good defense,” said Caddow. “We get [other teams] to play our tempo so we can play our game and do it our way.”
San Fernando’s crafty playmaking guards Natalia Gaspar and Marlene-Serrano repeatedly made great plays in the fourth quarter. However, the team still could not get shots to fall and was held to another single-digit scoring quarter in the fourth.
Once the Knights reached a 20-point lead with the clock winding down, four of five starters exited the game. They received one last standing ovation from a traveling Trinity crowd that stole home court advantage, outnumbering the home Tiger fans.
Knights forward Katie Brown was her normal self on defense all game long. The junior battled in the trenches, allowing nothing easy under the basket for San Fernando. Brown finished with 11 rebounds, two steals and a block.
Trinity first-year head coach James De Monbrun ended his inaugural campaign with a state title, and an 11-game winning streak, and he won’t lose a single player on this young team to graduation.
“Truthfully, I can’t believe it,” said De Monbrun. “For a team to win a state championship in their first year, it’s awesome. I’m so proud of our kids and their efforts and attitudes. We didn’t even know if we were going to have a season. That rollercoaster from thinking you might not play to a state championship is crazy.”
Coming out of the pandemic all of high school sports wondered if there would be a season. Most high school sports were jumbled into a tight squeeze this past spring and are concluding before everything resets this summer.
“We’re at a school that’s at the forefront of advocating for the kids,” said De Monbrun. “Trinity was back on campus earlier than a lot of schools. We were back in the gym before a lot of other schools, all while working with the health department and following COVID guidelines to keep everybody safe.”
The extra work paid off and now the team can only look to improve and repeat.
“I’m just overjoyed,” said Caddow. “I’m so proud of all of our girls and our coaches. Our head of school and our athletic director, they’ve put so much work in and it’s incredible to see it pay off.”