St. Anne’s-Belfield celebrated Senior Night for boys basketball with a 64-59 upset of Trinity Episcopal, thereby issuing a strong closing statement for a spot in the 12-team VISAA Division 1 state playoff bracket.
After pregame recognitions for the class of 2019, the Saints came out hot and opened an early 11-2 lead.
“There were a lot of people out here tonight, and it was great having our five seniors on the floor playing hard and playing for each other,” said senior guard Dalton Taylor, who hit a pair of treys and accounted for 11 first-quarter points as STAB held a 20-10 advantage after eight minutes.
The Titans battled back in the second quarter, as the defense applied consistent full court pressure as Trinity coach RIchard Hamlin kept fresh legs on floor with substitutions at nearly every dead ball. The offense capitalized on its size advantage in the post as junior forward Henry Coleman tallied seven field goals in the first half, and fellow big man Burke Smith earned trips to the line and connected on 3-of-4 second quarter free throws. Trinity ended the half with a 13-4 run, capped by Coleman intercepting a STAB inbounds pass from under its own basket with six seconds on the clock and promptly slamming it home to pull his squad within 27-26 at the break.
Both defenses ratcheted up the physical play after halftime, drawing frequent whistles. STAB was in the bonus with 33 seconds left in the third, and Trinity followed early in the fourth. The Saints maintained a 3-5 point lead for most of the quarter until Smith pulled up behind the arc in the final 20 seconds and tied the game at 41; however, Dalton Taylor answered with a trey from the left corner at the buzzer, and then opened the fourth with a driving lay up.
“We handled the press well,” said Taylor. “We got out and ran; hit some open shots and did our thing.”
Trinity sophomore Erik Prosise drained a three to tie the game at 46 with six and a half minutes to play, and things stayed tight for a bit. STAB came up empty on a few possessions, while Trinity missed the front end of a couple of one-and-ones. Saints coach Damin Altizer called a full timeout with the score knotted at 48 with 5:47 left in the game.
“Coach said in the timeout, ‘we’ve got to share the ball,’” said junior Nick Reese. “‘When we penetrate and kick, we’re a great team. Good shots turn into great shots, and as long as we move the ball and do our work, we’ll get great shots.’”
STAB junior Malachi Poindexter broke the tie with a driving lay-in. Moments later, Reese got his first points of the game with lay-up while drawing a foul. He completed the and-one after a Trinity timeout, putting the Saints up by five with 4:52 on the clock.
“Coach always tells us, two-feet finish, no reversals or whatever, so I just got to my stop, went up and drew the call,” said Reese, who scored all seven of his points down the stretch.
Coleman pulled the Titans back within two by converting 3-of-4 free throws over the next couple of possessions, but that would be as close as the visitors got. STAB used a 13-4 run of their own to open a 61-52 lead with 2:14 remaining.
“It started on the defensive end,” Taylor said. “We got rebounds, kept them off the boards.”
Coleman finished with a double-double, leading all scorers with 26 points, but it wasn’t enough to complete a regular season sweep of STAB.
“We knew we had to gang-defend [Coleman],” said Altizer. “The three guys that guarded him, I think they used 13 fouls between them. Sending him to the line, not letting him get wide open breakaway dunks, helped keep the momentum on our side by making him work.”
Smith added 10 points for the Titans. Dalton Taylor led the Saints with 22 points and Poindexter finished with 15 off the bench. Freshman Justin Taylor led STAB on the glass with an unofficial total of eight defensive rebounds.
The Saints will start Prep League Tournament play Tuesday night at home against Fork Union.