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Sports >  Whitworth

Whitworth unable to solve Trinity’s zone defense in Division III Tournament loss 77-52

UPDATED: Fri., March 4, 2022

From staff reports

BELTON, Texas – Poor shooting and turnover woes dashed Whitworth’s aspirations on Friday.

Trinity’s zone defense flustered the Pirates for much of their first-round matchup in the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament, and the Tigers pulled away late for a 77-52 win.

Whitworth, which shared the Northwest Conference regular-season title and won the NWC Tournament championship, finished its season 22-5.

Trinity (23-5) scored the game’s first eight points and led by as many as 14 points (29-15) in the opening half.

The Pirates got back into contention with a 15-1 run that narrowed their deficit to 33-30 at halftime.

Whitworth got as close as 34-32 with Rowan Anderson’s bucket 40 seconds into the second half, but the Tigers scored seven straight points to regain control.

Jerry Twenge’s jumper pulled Whitworth within 55-48 with 8:55 left before Trinity put the game away with a 16-2 run over the next 7 minutes.

“We didn’t have enough left in the tank, and our guys were pretty exhausted by the end of the game,” Whitworth coach Damion Jablonski said. “It was difficult to overcome the amount of pressure they put on us.”

“We made a good run at the end of the first half, but Trinity played really well in the second half and made it hard for us, and the ball didn’t go in,” Pirates guard Garrett Paxton said.

The Pirates struggled to find their offensive rhythm against Trinity’s 2-3 zone defense and converted just 19 of 62 shots (30.6%) from the field, including 7 of 31 (22.5%) beyond the arc. Whitworth also committed 16 turnovers, complicating its effort to keep pace.

“We got a lot of good shots,” Jablonski said, “but they were pretty contested or they closed out really quickly. Their zone was definitely good. Also, shots just weren’t dropping, and it was just an unfortunate time to have such a dry spell.”

“The zone was definitely a different look than we’ve seen this season, and it was just not our night,” Anderson said.

Anderson finished with a team-high 13 points for Whitworth, and Paxton and JT McDermott added 11 and 10, respectively. Liam Fitzgerald grabbed 12 rebounds.

The Tigers’ Tanner Brown led all scorers with 20 points and Kaleb Jenkins added 15. Enzo Sechi added 12 points and eight rebounds.

Trinity made just 2 of 14 3-point shots, but the Tigers made 29 of 60 shots (48.3%) overall. They also had 24 assists, led by Sechi’s eight, and outrebounded Whitworth 43-36.

Whitworth lists five players as seniors or graduates on the roster this season. Jablonski said a couple of them may take advantage of an extra year of eligibility related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The others, he said, are ready to move on to the next phase of their lives.

“All in all, it’s been just a really great group of senior guys,” Jablonski said. “They brought a ton of energy and commitment and effort into the program. I’m really grateful for everything given to us. I know they will be extremely successful husbands and fathers and community members moving forward.”

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