On Friday, Jan. 17, the Trinity men’s basketball team squared off against the Johnson & Wales University (Denver) Wildcats in Calgaard Gym for the first of two Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) home games.
Trinity held the lead for most of the game, leading by as many as 26 points. For a moment the tide seemed to turn in favor of Johnson & Wales as the Wildcats cut the Tigers’ lead almost in half with a 15–4 run in the second half. The Tigers rebuilt their lead up to 19, but the Wildcats scored 11 unanswered points and brought Trinity’s lead down to eight. However, the Tigers’ defense stood tall and allowed just four points in the final five minutes of the game, clinching an 80–64 victory for Trinity.
The Tigers returned to the court on Saturday, Jan. 18 to a larger turnout in the stands as the Colorado College Tigers came to town. Sophomore forward David Nickell opened the scoring with a three-point jump shot a mere six seconds into the game. A combination of an aggressive offense and missed shots by the Tigers continued to widen Trinity’s lead throughout the first half. However, Colorado College rallied with a more aggressive offense and alert defense, pulling them ahead of the Trinity at the end of the first half with a score of 41–39.
In the second half, the lead bounced back and forth between the two Tiger teams. Trinity pulled away a bit as the they were up 80–67. The 13 point lead, however, would not last long. Due to foul trouble caused by four personal fouls, Nickell was coming on and off the bench for the last 10 minutes of the game. As it turned out, Nickell was the lynchpin of the Trinity’s defense, and in his absence, Colorado College closed the gap. With less than a minute left in the game, Trinity was barely holding on to a lead of one point (83–82).
First-year spectator Sonja Lisowski could hardly stand the suspense.
“It was an intense game. By the end of the game, I was on the edge of my seat. The guys looked really focused, and they were making really good passes, and they were super energetic. They were on the ball.” Lisowski said.
With four seconds left on the clock, sophomore guard Luke Stuart knocked down two free throws making the score 85–82. Before the Prowlers could get off a three-point shot to tie the game, the Tigers fouled and the Prowlers missed their free throw attempt, solidifying a second SCAC victory for the Tigers over the weekend.
Trinity had entered the weekend ranked seventh in conference, but their two wins allowed them to move up a spot. According to first-year guard Jalen White, this weekend marked a turning point for the team.
“In practice, that’s when you prepare for the game, and when you practice hard the game is a lot easier. I feel like the last few weeks of practices and games, we’ve really started to turn the corner and have that turning point,” White said.
According to head coach Pat Cunningham, the team’s performance throughout the season prior to this past weekend has been a work in progress.
“I think we’re right on the cusp of where we want to be, but we haven’t just quite got there. It’s a combination of things. Last weekend we had a few injuries that kind of slowed us down a little bit, and we also had some performances we just didn’t get out of people that had we gotten a few better performances, we would’ve done better. We’re halfway through the season, but we’re only a third of the way through conference schedule, so the major part of that still lies in front of us,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham believes part of the struggle that the team has faced is a lack of identity.
“Our youth is a blessing because the enthusiasm and the willingness to learn and get better is there, but then the experience is not there. That’s kind of two-edged sword,” Cunningham said. “I think that in terms of personnel and that I don’t think we have a permanent player or inside player or offense. I’m not sure that we have created a niche or a mark yet.”
With two conference wins this weekend, Cunningham hopes the team identity he is looking for might be starting to emerge.
“I keep talking to them about ‘you’ve got to create an identity,’ but I think we’re still in the process of trying to figure that out,” Cunningham said.
Correction: The original headline on this article named Colorado College’s team as the Prowlers. They are the Colorado College Tigers.