Trinity speeds through Exeter, into semis

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Junior Shawn O’Neil slashes through traffic for two of his game-high 23 points against Exeter in the quarterfinals. Stacy Harrison photo

EXETER, NH – The Trinity boys basketball team made the point-to-point trek from Exit 8 off I-93 in Manchester to Exit 8 off 101 in Exeter for the second time this year.

This time, they got caught speeding and, in doing so, issued a warning to the rest of Division I: the Pioneers aren’t slowing down.

Competing in the NHIAA Division-I quarterfinals Saturday, the fifth-ranked Pioneers did what they failed to do during a 76-72 overtime setback at No. 4 Exeter on Jan. 31. They kept their collective foot on the gas held onto a second-half lead to earn the 78-65 win.

“The first time played them, we kind of stole a win here,” said Exeter first-year head coach Jeff VanGorder.”They’ve got a lot of guys who can dribble, pass and shoot, and they exposed us a little bit. Defensively, we had a really hard time stopping them … you know, we got steals, we got hoops, but we gave up too much too.”

Trinity, which maintained a 36-28 advantage at halftime, extended its lead to 50-40 in the third and kept running right through the fourth quarter en route to the 13-point victory.

“Our mentality was this: if they’re going to score, we’re going to score twice as fast, so we ran all practice this week, grab it off the net and go,” said Trinity’s own first-year head coach, Ray Farmer. “I told them, I kill them in practice for a reason. We run up and down this court for a reason … this game we were in better shape, and it showed.”

Not only did the Pioneers outpace the Blue Hawks, but they also adjusted their defense from the first meeting between the two teams.

“We knew we couldn’t trap full court, so we moved everything to half court and you could see the running and jumping at half court really disrupted them, and then our rotations were great,” said Farmer, who specifically credited junior guard Evan Dunker, who not only scored 10 in the matchup, but also limited Exeter standout Brady Rogers to 22 points.

The Pioneers saw four players hit double digits in another well-distributed scoring output led by Shawn O’Neil’s 23 points. Senior DeVohn Ellis steered the team in the second half with 10 of his 17 points, and freshman Jordan Torres also contributed 17.

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Sophomore Derek Erilla scored 7 points against Exeter in the D-I quarterfinals Saturday. Stacy Harrison photo

And now the Pioneers venture on, with a relatively short jaunt to Derry where they’ll face long odds against top-ranked Pinkerton in the D-I semifinals Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

“(Trinity) is very guard oriented,” said VanGorder. ” Pretty much everybody out there is a guard, and they can rebound well enough, and they’re tenacious on defense and gave us a lot of problems getting into our offense.

“The problem they’re going to have against Pinkerton is what every team has, which is, how do you stop (Jackson) Marshall,” he said. “I mean, he’s going to score, but they’re going to score too. Pinkerton’s got to figure out a way to stop those guys too … I think (the Pioneers) can give them problems if they’re in the game in the fourth quarter because they can take the air out of there a little bit with those guards.”

Farmer said the Pioneers were out of sync when they hosted Pinkerton and lost, 81-61, on Feb. 16. This time, he said, things will be different.

“Last time around, it was abysmal. We didn’t follow the game plan when it comes to Jackson Marshall,” he said. “We’re a better team now, we’re a better collective group, and we’re going to stick to the game plan this time around.

“And we’re going to run them,” said Farmer. “We’re going to get out and go, and get out into the open areas, and I think we’ll be much better in transition this time around.”

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Head Coach Ray Farmer has the Pioneers headed to the semifinals in this, his first season at the Trinity helm. Stacy Harrison photo

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About this Author

Ryan O'Connor

As a longtime journalist in Southern New Hampshire, Ryan O'Connor has written for several local online and print publications covering everything from school board meetings and local high school sporting events to major crime stories and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary (yes, the last two are mutually exclusive). In addition to spending time with his beautiful wife and four amazing children, Ryan enjoys attending and serving at church, golfing as much as possible, home brewing, playing softball and snowboarding when time allows.