Trolls on a roll
Two in a row. Four out of six.
The potential of making the playoffs.
Trinity Christian College’s men’s basketball team entered the current week with optimism. Most squads with an 8-17 record neither have, nor deserve, it, but the Trolls aren’t most squads. With more cohesive play and a late rally to get past Roosevelt University in last week’s opener, the possibility still exists that Trinity can squeeze into the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
There were five games remaining following Saturday’s 96-81 victory over Trinity International University, the Trolls’ second win of the week. A scrap with Indiana University-South Bend this past Monday and a Wednesday encounter with Purdue-North Central preceded this Saturday’s game with powerhouse Cardinal Stritch, and were key to the postseason opportunity.
They became important only because Trinity took care of business last week, knocking off Roosevelt 74-71 before dismissing the Trojans to advance to 4-10 in the league.
The Trolls hit 60 percent of their shots against TIU in the second half to expand what had been a one-point halftime lead, and they did so with across-the-board efforts. Five Trinity Christian players scored 10 or more points, led by Jake Van Den Berg’s 24-point, 10-rebound performance. Jared Jones scored 19 points and pulled down six boards.
It took until 1.1 seconds remained for the Trolls to beat Roosevelt. Cody Rhorer’s 3-pointer from the top of the key snapped a 71-all tie and earned Trinity the victory, climaxing a rally from seven points down over the final 2:16.
Two free throws by Ezekiel Odonkor and Evan Pratt’s jumper trimmed the deficit to three points with 55 seconds to play. Jones then turned Odonkor’s steal and pass into a 3-pointer to tie the game with 15 seconds later. After a Roosevelt miss from beyond the arc, the Trolls corralled the rebound and Rhorer was on target with his shot to complete the comeback.
As would be the case against TIU, Trinity’s shooting was outstanding in the second half, as it connected on 59 percent of its attempts from the floor. That was good enough for the Trolls to overcome the Lakers’ 12-of-25 performance from 3-point range.
Before the final push, Trinity had to come back from a 14-point hole in the first half. It was still an eight-point differential at halftime, but the Trolls have developed a mentality of not giving up, and that paid dividends again at Roosevelt.
• Statistics: 8-17 overall, 4-10 CCAC, 4-5 home, 4-9 away, 0-3 neutral. Leaders: Jared Jones 17.4 ppg., 22 steals; Ezekiel Odonkor 7.6 rpg., 18 blocks; Jake Van Den Berg, 7.6 rpg; Evan Pratt 60 assists.
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. Cardinal Stritch University, 3 p.m.; Wednesday, at Judson University, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 22, vs. St. Xavier University, 3 p.m.
A 79-52 romp over Trinity International on Saturday ended the Trolls’ five-game losing streak and was their fifth win in the last 15 games.
That may not seem like much, but Trinity Christian opened the season 2-8, and its total of seven triumphs with four games remaining in the regular season is four more than it managed in the 2012-13 campaign, which ended at 3-23.
What’s more, there was still the outside possibility entering this past Monday’s contest at Indiana-South Bend that the Trolls (7-18, 3-11) could, by winning three of the last four games, barge into the CCAC playoffs.
That possibility fed their effort against Trinity International, which is winless in league play. Trinity Christian led 45-18 at the half and maintained its margin to the finish, even while shooting just 38 percent from the floor. The Trolls prospered by pulling down 54 rebounds to Trinity International’s 38.
Brooke Bambrick (15 points, 11 rebounds), Erynn Schuh (15 points, eight rebounds) and Caitlin Cody (13 points) led the Trinity Christian charge.
That effort made up for the thumping handed out to the Trolls by Roosevelt earlier in the week. The Lakers opened a 13-0 lead and ran off to a 70-52 victory.
The Roosevelt defense held the Trolls to 22 percent shooting and out-rebounded Trinity 56-40. Cody and Schuh each scored 10 points for the Trolls.
Roosevelt was a tough customer, with a 19-7 record and mixing it up with St. Xavier University and Cardinal Stritch for the top spot in the CCAC North. In contrast, Trinity was expected to beat TIU.
The only team with a sub-.500 record remaining on the Trolls’ schedule is Judson University (8-17, 3-10). With Stritch and SXU also left on the Trinity docket, that playoff spot would be very well earned if the Trolls were to pull off an upset or two.
• Statistics: 7-18 overall, 3-11 CCAC, 3-6 home, 3-10 away, 1-2 neutral. Leaders: Caitlin Cody 13.2 ppg., 8.1 rpg., 17 block; Allie Paluchniak 53 assists, 34 steals.
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. Cardinal Stritch University, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, at Judson University, 5:30 p.m.; Feb. 22, vs. St. Xavier Universty, 1 p.m.
The track teams run at North Central College’s Chicagoland Championships in Naperville on Friday and Saturday ... The weather outside remains frightful, but the Trolls baseball team opens play on Feb. 21 with a doubleheader at Brescia in Owensboro, Ky. ... The softball season begins in March, with a series of games in Florida.