Every reason why the Trinity Academy girls basketball team wasn’t supposed to make state this season, coach Bret Gunderson remembered.
They were legitimate claims, too, Gunderson realized, as he is in the fourth year of building the Knights into a yearly contender.
But what the critics didn’t account for was Trinity’s greatest strength, its resolve, as it won its first postseason games in program history, the latest a 45-43 victory over Parsons in Andale to win the sub-state championship and clinch a berth to the Class 4A-Division II tournament.
“You can question our size, our basketball, you can question whatever,” Gunderson said. “But you cannot question the heart of these kids.”
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After beating Andale on its home court in the semifinals, Trinity appeared to have a favorable road to its first trip to state against Parsons, a fourth seed that had 15 losses this season.
But Parsons, and Shay Kelly (game-high 21 points) proved otherwise.
“Parsons’ record, who cares?” Gunderson said. “That was a tough basketball team.”
Trinity took control of what had been a back-and-forth game in the third quarter, when a steal and run-out by Kaleigh Schrag pushed the lead to 28-18.
But Parsons proved resilient, as Kelly’s last basket of the game put Trinity in a 37-36 deficit with 3:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Trinity buckled down and held the Vikings without a field goal for the remainder of the game, taking the lead for good when Schrag missed a three-pointer, followed her shot and tipped a rebound to teammate Micala Hollinger for a 38-37 lead.
“I wasn’t going to give up on the play,” said Schrag, who scored eight points. “Our coach always tells us to follow our shots like that.”
After four straight free throws from Shiloh Miller (team-high 10 points) and critical steals from Kristin Miller, Trinity had secured a berth to its first state tournament.
“Once the buzzer went off,” Shiloh Miller said, “we were freaking out. We’re just so jacked and ready to go.”
All nine players who played for Trinity scored and contributed, which Gunderson pointed out was the way the Knights have done it all season.
“We fight for each other,” Miller said. “Honestly, that’s it. We didn’t want that to be our last game together, so we kept fighting for each other.”
TRINITY: S. Miller 10, Schrag 8, Zeilke 5, Geutersloh 5, Billings 5, West 4, K. Miller 3, Clinton 3, Hollinger 2.
PARSONS: S. Kelly 21, K. Kelly 10, Stewart 6, Me. Hizey 4, Dishman 2.