The Trinity boys’ basketball team has had a rough go of things as of late, coming off back-to-back home overtime section losses to Bethel Park and Moon.
Things didn’t get any better Friday night against Upper St. Clair, as the Hillers dropped their third consecutive close game, losing a Section 4-AAAA contest 45-40 to the Panthers.
Trinity (3-5, 9-7), which has lost six of its past eight games since opening the season 7-1, had its chances, but had problems executing when it needed to all night long.
“We played very hard against a real good basketball team,” said Trinity head coach Stan Noszka. “The last four games, we have just made some mistakes at the wrong times and it has cost us.”
The Hillers had problems scoring, but stayed in the game thanks to a good defensive effort. Trinity didn’t make its first shot until Christian Koroly knocked down a three-pointer 6:30 into the game. Despite not shooting well, the Hillers led 9-8 after the first quarter.
Trinity only trailed 21-20 at the half, but the shots weren’t coming easily, especially for Koroly, the Hillers’ leading scorer.
Koroly struggled to get open looks throughout the game and scored only eight points, none in the first half after his initial three-pointer.
“He was frustrated,” said Noszka. “Teams are grabbing him and bumping him all game, and the game isn’t being called that way for some reason. We have to adjust better to that as a team.”
Upper St. Clair (7-1, 11-3) started the second half on a 6-1 run to go up 27-21, which was the biggest lead either team enjoyed through three quarters. Trinity started the third quarter the same way it began the game, failing to hit a shot in the quarter’s first four minutes.
But Koroly again ended that streak, scoring five quick points as the Hillers took a 28-27 lead.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Trinity turned the ball over on its next two possessions and the Panthers closed the quarter on a 6-2 run to take a 33-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
“That was a big sequence right there,” said Noszka. “That seems to be happening too often. As soon as we get a lead, we shoot ourselves in the foot. We just had to work too hard for everything. We are at our best when we are running and getting easy baskets in transition. That didn’t happen.”
Upper St. Clair took its biggest lead early in the fourth quarter after a frustrated Koroly was called for a technical foul. J.J. Conn knocked down the pair of free-throws to put the Panthers up 38-30.
With Upper St. Clair leading, 42-36, with four minutes remaining, the Panthers tried to play keep away, as they ran clock and didn’t attempt a shot in the final four minutes.
The Panthers ran over two minutes off the clock before Trinity forced a pair of turnovers that it turned into layups to pull within 42-40, but that ultimately would be as close as the Hillers would get.
Conn led the Panthers, who have now reeled off eight consecutive wins, with 17 points, while Jordan Grabowski added 11.
“We wanted to match Trinity’s physicality, and I think we did a good job of that,” said Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer. “Other than that, we tried to take Koroly out of the game and hold him to single digits, and we have done that twice now. I was very happy with the way we defended. I think our effort at that end of the floor set the tone.”
Trinity was led in scoring by Berton Miller with 13 points.
Despite their hot start, it is getting close to must-win time for Trinity if it wants to make the playoffs. The Hillers have fallen into a five-way tie in the section with Peters Township, Moon, Canon-McMillan and Mt. Lebanon for the final two playoff spots in Section 4-AAAA.
“We are still in this thing,” said Noszka. “We just have to do some of the little things better, and I believe we will be fine. The effort is there, but we have to start winning games.”