It was a rough crash course in Winning 101 last season for the Trinity High School boys basketball team.
First was a quick lesson for a young team, about learning to win – the Hillers went 0-4 to start the season after replacing all five starters.
Then, a period of success when the Hillers rattled off seven victories in nine games in a strong start to section play.
“We thought we were destined for a big season,” Trinity coach Tim Tessmer said.
That was until the crash course suffered head-on collision in the middle of January and totaled any momentum the Hillers had built. A losing streak wrecked the rest of their promising season.
Trinity lost the final nine games of the season to finish 7-15 overall and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
“Honestly, as a coaching staff we have gone round and round trying to figure it out,” Tessmer said. “The easy answers are we just hit the wall, injuries popped up and inexperience. It all caught up to us. Sometimes you have to learn how to win. I think they thought it might be easy, but you have to fight for every game. It’s something they needed. We lost a lot of those games down the stretch in the fourth quarter because we couldn’t come up with plays at a key time.”
Now, Tessmer is hoping those bumps in the road will allow Trinity to return to its winning ways. It’s what he challenged his players to do after last year’s season-ending banquet.
“There are so many clichés,” he said. “Whether it’s called unfinished business or playing with a chip or your shoulder, I don’t know. We had a meeting after the banquet and admitted we all have to be better. What happened is not OK with us as a program.”
A turnaround will come with many of the same players returning, including Observer-Reporter All-District first team player Michael Koroly, who is back for his senior season. After turning into a regular starter last year – he was the sixth man in Trinity’s deep playoff run in 2017-18 – Koroly averaged 18.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and three assists per game.
Senior power forward Dylan King, who is 6-4, is back after scoring 10.7 points and grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game a season ago. Noah Johnson, Jordane Adams, Mike Dunn and point guard Connor Roberts, who was thrust into a starting role early into last season as a freshman, also return.
“They have bought in,” Tessmer said. “They have lived in the weight room because size, strength and speed were an issue last year. They want to win. They understand what our goals are. Now they understand how easily things can get away from you.”
The Hillers will begin their regular season at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Latrobe in the Canon-McMillan Tip-Off Tournament, which also features the Big Macs hosting Perry at 8 p.m. The losers in Friday’s games will play in a consolation game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The championship is scheduled to follow.
“Last year was tough on us all. It made you question things because it was so difficult,” Tessmer said. “But it’s been fun and enjoyable trying to put this thing right back to where we were. Our expectations are always high. We’d love to hang a banner this year.”