MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Thursday night, there were two incarnations of the Trinity boys’ basketball team: good and good enough.
Despite their aggregate level of “good” over the course of the evening against Manchester Memorial, it was ultimately enough for advancement into the next round of the NHIAA Division I Boys’ Basketball Tournament, heading home with a 67-49 victory.
One could look at that final score and assume the Pioneers held firm control over the entire contest, but start-and-stop production left room for a scrappy Crusaders team to threaten the Pioneers lead at various points.
After Trinity freshman Tyler Bike drained a three in the opening moments of the contest, the Pioneers would never trail, but they had problems pulling away from Memorial as well.
At the end of the first quarter, Trinity held a tenuous 17-14 lead, with Memorial briefly tying up the game at 17 all before regaining the lead and stabilizing it just short of the double-digit mark for most of the rest of the first half.
That’s when Royce Williams flipped the switch.
The state’s leading scorer opened scoring in the first half with a steal that turned into an old-school three-point play, a glimmer of what Trinity would unleash down the stretch.
Memorial managed to get the game within three points with 6:36 left in the fourth quarter before Trinity transformed into the juggernaut it appeared to be for small stretches earlier on.
Williams went 3-for-6 from the field in the fourth quarter, bagging nine points in the final frame as the Pioneers pulled away.
“We fought through adversity when we needed to, especially down the stretch and we hit free throws when needed to the most,” said Williams. “I didn’t come out as well as I wanted in the first half and in the second half I played as strongly as I had to, fighting hard and doing the best that I could.”
“I heard (Williams) at one point say, ‘we’re not going to lose,” said Trinity Head Coach Keith Bike. “When you’re a senior, you don’t want to go out like that.”
Williams didn’t believe he was the sole catalyst for victory and Trinity did receive other key performances such as freshman Mark Nyumah’s five-for-six day at the line and the pair of early treys from senior Ryan Stultz.
Bike says that Trinity’s high tempo approach lends itself to the Pioneers’ inconsistency, but they have been seeing more consistency as of late. That will be needed as they face off against a Bedford team on Saturday that defeated Goffstown in a double-overtime thriller earlier in the evening. Trinity has beaten Bedford twice this year so far.
“As everyone knows, it’s very hard to beat a team three times in a year, hopefully we can come out on Saturday and play strong on their home court like we did last time,” said Williams.
For Memorial Head Coach Danny Bryson, the primary takeaway came from the fact that things could have been different if the Crusaders capitalized during Trinity’s lulls.
“We had about five or six chances to cut it to two, but we couldn’t the basket in the hole and after that we had a couple of turnovers and Royce turned it up,” said Bryson. “I’m proud of the way we played, we played hard and the final score doesn’t indicate how close it was.”
Williams led all scorers with 25 points. Brennan Beland and Cameron Pollock each had ten to lead the Crusaders.