EDINBURGH – Trinity Lutheran’s youthful boys basketball team, which features two freshmen and a sophomore in its six-player rotation, showed poise that belied its age in Friday’s Class A Edinburgh Sectional semifinal.
When West Washington elected to stall offensively through much of the game, the Cougars, who prefer to play a more uptempo style, didn’t flinch. When the Senators mounted a fourth-quarter comeback, Trinity calmly made the plays it needed.
The Cougars hit 13 of 15 free throws, all in the fourth quarter, and staved off several West Washington surges to claim a 39-34 win and advance to tonight’s sectional championship game against the host Lancers.
“Early in the season, we didn’t have near as much poise,” Trinity coach Brian Stuckwisch said. “We’ve shown a lot more confidence. Our freshmen really aren’t freshmen anymore. The team didn’t let West Washington’s game plan get in our way.”
That game plan kept the score low at times. Trinity Lutheran led 5-4 at the end of the first quarter, 11-6 at halftime and 18-13 after three quarters. The slow pace never allowed the Cougars to build a lead larger than eight points, and that almost came back to bite them at the end.
West Washington (8-16) cut the lead to 35-34 after a Holden Bowsman 3-pointer with 23 seconds to play, and the Senators immediately fouled freshman Tyler Goecker with 17.6 seconds left. He calmly made both free throws, but the Senators still had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer.
Instead, they missed a pair of 3-point attempts, and Trent Shoemaker rebounded the second miss for the Cougars. The junior guard hit both free throws with 2.5 seconds left to ice the win.
Shoemaker hit all six of his free-throw tries for Trinity and finished with eight points, all in the fourth quarter. Jack Marksberry led the Cougars with 10 points, while AJ Goecker added nine, and Jacob Rowe and Tyler Goecker scored six points apiece.
Trinity Lutheran (9-16) will play for its first sectional title since 2014, and will try to avenge and 86-64 loss to Edinburgh on Feb. 13.
“I’m proud of them,” Stuckwisch said of the Cougar players. “We’ve had a long season and a tough schedule, and it’s been good to see positive results at the end.”