Hoops etching name in Triad history
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By Anthony Jones
Two games last week saw this year’s basketball squad add to their growing legacy.
Their week began on Feb. 10, when the Knights visited the Mascoutah Indians. A Triad win would guarantee sole possession of the Mississippi Valley Conference for the first time in over a decade.
The heavyweight bout started with a balanced scorecard as the some side inched ahead 11-8. However, Triad responded with an 11-0 run to close out the first quarter and lead 19-11 off a Jake Stewart buzzer beater. Six different Knights scored in the opening eight minutes.
Mascoutah chipped their deficit down to 19-16, but Aydin Hitt took over Triad’s scoring with an 8-2 run to establish their lead. Hitt would finish with 11 points in the first half as his squad led 31-23.
In addition to their lead on the scoreboard, the Knights 10-2 in fouls at the half.
Senior Jake Stewart discussed Triad’s mindset when calls start stacking up against them, “We’ve got great leadership from all our seniors when they get on the floor. We just try to calm everybody down and relax.”
The Knight’s cool attitude paid off in the second half, as the Indians took the lead in fouls.
“It tells us we’re mature, we’re a veteran team. It’s things like that that we’ve got to be able to deal with to have a successful postseason,” Coach Guidry spoke of his team’s second half reset.
Triad’s lead would range from seven to eleven points in the third frame, but ultimately stayed at eight as they went to the fourth up 41-33.
Mascoutah began a stronger comeback bid in the fourth, pulling within 45-41 with just over two minutes to play. That’s when it became clear the Knights would need to seal the game from the charity stripe.
AJ Mills, who converted three times at the line, detailed his mindset during crunchtime, “Just seal the deal. We practice free throws every day before the game and we just knew we had to finish strong in that time.”
Tyler Thompson, Hitt and Stewart would all tack on free throws to seal a 53-45 victory for the visitors.
Drew Winslow led the Knights with 13 points, while Hitt added on 12 more. Both Mills and Stewart tallied 9 points.
“We’ve done a lot of things so far this year that we haven’t done in a while. 2017 is when we won here last so I told the seniors they were sixth graders the last time we won here. To come here and do that against such a good team, I’m proud of these guys,” Guidry reacted to his first conference crown at the helm for Triad.
Mills added on about the excitement, but also keeping their eyes ahead of them, “Us seniors had the goal to win the conference and we’re not finished yet. We still want to win that regional and to try to win a sectional.”
The following afternoon, the Knights traveled to Teutopolis to take on Effingham St. Anthony. A win for the 23-6 Knights would tie them with the 1969-70 and 2019-2020 squads for most wins in program history.
After going ahead 28-25 at the half, Triad began to storm away in the second half. They lead 46-31 at the end of three before earning a 61-29 victory.
Hitt finished with 18 points after shooting six for eleven beyond the arc. Winslow also hit double digits with 12 points.
Playoff brackets and seedings were also released last week, with Triad earning a two seed. They will open play in the Civic Memorial Regional on Feb. 22 against the winner of Civic Memorial and Cahokia. They could face either Highland or Jerseyville in the subsequent Regional Final on Fed. 24.
Hosted by Centralia, the Sectional semifinals and finals are set for Mar. 1 and 3. Mt. Vernon and East St. Louis are the most likely respective opponents in those rounds based on seeding.
Before postseason play begins, Triad will close out their regular season with a Feb. 16 hosting of Jerseyville. The Knights can break the school record for wins with victory number 25 in that matchup.