IMPERIAL – Trinity High School’s Mary Dunn could not be stopped for the first 16 minutes of Wednesday night’s first round playoff game against Hampton.
Holding a three-inch advantage over her defender, Dunn received passes in the lane, executed with easy shots and grabbed rebound after rebound for the Hillers. The result was 17 first-half points for the sophomore center.
Hampton found an answer for her in the second half, but at a steep price. Dunn’s teammates, freshman Sierra Kotchman and senior Kelly Korpus, combined for 25 second-half points, and Trinity earned a 59-53 victory over the Talbots.
With the win, the Hillers (17-6) advance to the Class AAA WPIAL quarterfinals where they will face section-rival, third-seeded South Park on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
“They have great guard play and a post player that is incredibly tough to stop,” Hampton head coach Mary Bukovac said. “That’s a combination that is necessary to win a WPIAL title, and they are good enough to do it.”
Dunn sat out Trinity’s regular season finale against North Catholic after suffering a mild concussion. She was nervous that the injury would prevent her from playing in the Hillers’ playoff game. She was cleared by doctors last week.
The gravity of her first playoff game did not get to Dunn. She blocked two shots in the first quarter and forced the Talbots (14-9) to switch from zone defense to man-to-man. Bukovac moved her best defensive player, sophomore guard Lexi Griggs, into the post to guard Dunn. That allowed the Hillers’ guards room with which to work.
“It was a huge relief to get cleared,” Dunn said. “It always feels great when my play allows my teammates opportunities. (Kotchman and Korpus) were huge tonight.”
Dunn scored just two second half points, but Hampton’s defense was exploited by the play of Kotchman and Korpus. The Talbots pulled into within five points with 2:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. Kotchman answered with a three-pointer 40 seconds later.
Kotchman and Korpus finished with 15 points each.
The Hillers hit 14 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the postseason win just one year after missing the playoffs.
It did not come easy for Trinity. Hampton hit three three-point shots in the final three minutes of regulation, but it was the timely free throw shooting of Korpus that stifled the comeback attempt.
“Them switching their defense up took us out of our rhythm,” Trinity head coach Bob Miles said. “On the flip side, Kelly and Sierra stepped up big in the second half. When Mary was shut down, they played well. That’s how it has been for us all season – balanced.”
Dunn dominated in the first half with a mix of post play and outside shooting. Her jump shot surprised Hampton and forced them into a dramatic change. She scored 17 of Trinity’s 26 first-half points.
A consistent performer for the Hillers as a sophomore, Miles has high hopes for Dunn.
“I think her potential is ahead of her,” Miles said. “Her play could reach a whole other world. She has the tools to be a dominating player for the next two years.”
Reaching the quarterfinals was something Dunn did not think was possible for a young team this season. With only three seniors on the roster and relying on underclassmen to excel, the dramatic turnaround is a surprising, but welcome one.
“This has been a growing process for us,” Dunn said. “We have gotten better every game. It’s so exciting to reach this far. I don’t think anyone expected us to.”