By Anthony Jones
TROY — As the hosts of the Stovetop Stuffing Classic, Triad opened their boys basketball campaign last week.
Their first action came in the form of a Nov. 22 showdown with the Springfield Senators. Headed into that contest, the Knights were unsure what to make of a new-look Senator squad.
“It was a little unnerving coming in. With a new coach, some new faces on their roster and not having any film, we didn’t know what they were going to do,” Coach Jeff Guidry said of their first opponent.
The unknowns played a role in early play, with the foes finding themselves in a 10-10 late in the first frame. Baskets from Ethan Stewart and Drew Winslow pushed Triad ahead 14-10 at the end of the quarter.
Later in the half, the Knights embarked on a 10-2 run to hit the half ahead 31-21. Winslow led the team with 12 points off six field goals at that point.
Springfield would narrow the gap in the second half to lose 59-51, but never moved within six points of the lead.
Winslow finished as the game’s leading scorer with 16 points. Triad’s Tyler Thompson added 15 more and a team-high eight rebounds.
Their 59 point scoring attack was impressive for a Knight lineup that graduated 1,112 points of production from last season.
Guidry remarked, “We’ve got a lot of guys here who have stuck with the program and put in the work and waited their turn. They had a lot of good players ahead of them for the last couple of years and they put their work in.”
Triad returned to the court on Nov. 25 for a meeting with the Granite City Warriors.
Baskets were traded equally in early play for a 12-11 Warrior lead, prior to an 8-0 to push Triad ahead 19-12 after the first frame. Six different Knights scored across the first eight minutes of play.
Their lead remained healthy until Triad tallied their last points of the half with three minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the half. As the Granite City defense stood tall, their offense rallied for 11 unanswered points to regain the lead at 29-26.
Triad’s scoring proved limited again in the third frame, with Landon Zawodniak and Donny Becker combining for all 12 of the team’s points. However, the Knight defense stiffened to allow just 10 points to head to the fourth within 39-38.
In the final frame, the fourth lead change came with less than 20 seconds remaining when Granite City sank a basket to lead 49-48.
Triad’s last second comeback effort resulted in a drive to the hoop from Winslow, who drew a shooting foul with 2.4 seconds remaining. The junior converted both shots from the charity line to score a 50-49 victory.
Winslow finished the day having converted all six of his free throws to lead the team’s 18 of 21 day from the line.
With 12 points, Zawodniak led the victors’ scoring attack. Becker chipped in 11 more.
Zawodniak, who scored seven points in the third quarter, recalled the team’s mindset for their second half comeback, “We just wanted to play for ourselves, for our team. We had to come out there and we had to get it done and we wanted to play for something in the six thirty game.”
With the win, Triad moved to 2-0 and played 2-0 Mt. Vernon in the title game later in the day.
Through the first 45 ticks of the second frame, the event’s top teams found themselves in an 18-18 gridlock. That score proved to be a turning point however, as the Knights would not convert another field goal through the half.
While the Knights were contained to free throws, the Rams erupted for a 10-2 run to lead 28-20. By the break, their advantage stood at 31-24.
The Ram defense stiffened further in the third quarter, holding the home side to just four points. While Triad struggled to score, Mt. Vernon swelled its lead to 45-28 at the end of the third frame.
Minimal scoring came in the final quarter, resulting in a 48-36 Mt. Vernon victory.
Thompson and Winslow tied for the Triad points lead with 10 in the loss. Both offensive standouts were named to the all-tournament team.