Trinity Classical girls’ basketball fell at home to the Imperial Tigers in the Division 4 state regional semifinals.
The game’s 33-31 score was a testament to the clash of two defensive powerhouses.
The Tigers were led by forward Sierra Morris, who tallied 19 points and four rebounds.
Trinity’s man defense got worked in the first quarter. Imperial moved the ball very well and some early double teams on Morris got Imperial multiple open looks from deep.
Both teams’ defenses were tight and it showed with little scoring from either team’s half-court offense in the first half.
The Knights’ defense would take over the game in the second quarter. Two blocks on Morris’ shots and a handful of steals helped Trinity hold Imperial to just three second-quarter points.
Knights forward Emma Schaaf got a great steal leading to a Lily Caddow layup that retook the lead for Trinity.
Schaaf played great post defense and ended her season with five points, three blocks and two steals.
Senior Kelly Lotz was under duress all game as it was clear Imperial knew their assignment in containing Trinity’s leading scorer. The senior was denied, doubled and pressured in every way the Tigers could manage.
“Basketball at its core, you got to put the ball in the basket and tonight we just didn’t do it as often as we’d like,” said Knights’ head coach James De Monbrun. “But we don’t want to overshadow the fact that this group of girls has been on an incredible two-year run.”
Lotz finished with 14 points and nine rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. The game still remained tight with Trinity going into the half only up five.
The Tigers just kept chipping away thanks to tight defense on Lotz, who could find little breathing room let alone room to shoot. The defense paid off and eventually a long 8-0 run regifted Imperial control of the game. Lotz would get some decent looks but couldn’t catch a break getting anything to fall.
Imperial freshman Nayeli Cardona played great defense all game and was a big part of keeping the ball away from Lotz.
Cardona finished with 10 points and three rebounds.
Every other Knight was a little tentative with the ball and with the staggering Tiger defense, anything would cost the team.
Lotz fouled out after Caddow forced an inbounds pass to her with no space. Imperial got the tip steal and Lotz got her final foul, putting pressure on the fast break with less than a minute to go.
“I thought I had three fouls,” said Lotz. “Even in one of the biggest games as a senior in high school, you’re learning lessons. That’s the great thing about basketball, you learn something when you’re at the top of your game.”
Trinity had a solid chance to make a play down one point but with 12 seconds left, Caddow stepped out on her baseline drive.
The Knights would play the foul game but eventually the clock hit zeroes and the Tigers are now heading to the regional state finals.
Lotz and center Katie Brown concluded illustrious high school basketball careers featuring a state championship last season and three league titles together.
“I’ve had a lot of coaches in my life,” said Lotz, and added about De Monbrun: “I’ve never had one like him. He is something special and I am going to miss him and his coaching style.”
De Monbrun will still have a deep roster next season as he looks to lead Trinity to its fifth straight perfect season in league games and back to the playoffs.
“I’m excited for those girls who are going to have an opportunity this offseason to compete for minutes on the floor next season,” said De Monbrun.