CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — After leading Trinity with 10 first-half points in Friday’s Class A Region II, Section 1 title game at Notre Dame, Warriors’ senior Joel Robertson went cold for most of the second half.
Robertson missed his first four shots after halftime and was held scoreless for 15-plus minutes over the third and fourth quarters.
Yet when Trinity needed him most, there was Robertson, bringing in a pass from teammate Briston Bennett and swishing through a 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left to lift the Warriors to a 36-34 win over the Irish at Angelo Basile Court.
“Coach called a timeout so we could draw up a play where we got the ball to Briston because he did a good job penetrating the defense in the second half,” Robertson said. “He said, ‘if you don’t have it, look for the kickout,’ and he drove in and saw that the defense was collpasing on him. He gave me a great pass and I knocked it down.
“It felt good. I missed a few shots in the second half, and for that one to go was a very good feeling.”
With the victory, Trinity (19-5) stays home to face Pendleton County, while Notre Dame (20-4) will travel to Tucker County in Thursday’s Region II co-finals.
After a pair of free throws by Notre Dame’s Jaidyn West allowed the Irish to lead 34-29 with 2:09 remaining, the Warriors’ chances appeared bleak at best.
But Bennett was fouled attempting a 3 on the ensuing possession and he made 2-of-3 free throws with 1:56 remaining, before West committed just the third turnover of the night for the Irish with 1:30 left.
Daniel Woods then scored in the lane to bring Trinity to within one point with 55 seconds to play.
Out of a timeout, the Irish’s Gabe Zummo was fouled with 23.9 seconds remaining, but the Irish sharpshooter missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
That gave the Warriors the ball back with a chance to win, which they did when Robertson made the trey.
ND still had a chance to tie or win, but West had his shot blocked by Woods out of bounds with 0.6 seconds remaining, before Zummo’s jump shot fell off the mark at the buzzer off the inbounds pass.
“We talked about believing all week. The last time we came down here, we didn’t play like a Trinity basketball team,” Trinity coach John Fowkes said. “Tonight, we took care of the ball and we were very patient on offense.
“That’s also probably the best defensive game in my three years at Trinity. We pride ourselves on defense, but to hold a great, Jarrod West-coached team to 34 points on their home court in this environment, that’s one heck of a job our young men did.”
The Warriors, who lost both regular season meetings to Notre Dame, got first-quarter 3s from Josh Hart and Logo Zervos to overcome an early four-point deficit and lead 10-7 entering the second.
Robertson started the second-quarter scoring with a 3 and made another moments later to up his team’s lead to 16-9.
But ND closed the half on a 7-3 run that featured West’s conventional three-point play 1.2 seconds before halftime, allowing the Irish to trail 19-16 at the break.
“Defensively, we played well tonight. Offensively, we couldn’t execute and the amount of layups we missed was unbelievable,” Irish coach Jarrod West said. “You can’t score 34 points at home and expect to win.”
Still trailing by three nearing the midpoint of the third quarter, Notre Dame got back-to-back buckets from Nate Helm to take a 24-23 lead, and the Irish eventually went on top by five before Woods beat the third-quarter buzzer with a putback.
Bennett scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to give Trinity a 29-28 lead, before the Irish answered with six straight points.
Robertson had a game-high 13 points in the win, while Bennett finished with nine points and seven rebounds. Woods added eight points and 10 boards.
West led the Irish with 12 points, while Zummo and Helm scored seven apiece.
Zummo also had eight rebounds.
The Irish did not make a 3-pointer in the game and scored all 34 of their points in the paint or at the free-throw line.
“They’re a great offensive team,” Robertson said of Notre Dame. “We came down here with a great defensive plan. Our last seven games, we’ve held opponents to 44 points or below. We came down here knowing we pride ourselves on defense and I think we put on a great defensive display tonight.”