While it’s easy to peek ahead to a potential showdown on Feb. 27 between Whitney Young and Trinity, the No. 1 seed and No. 2 seed, respectively, in the Hinsdale South Sectional title game, the Blazers have been wisely taking it one postseason game at a time. So far, so good regarding Trinity’s measured approach in the playoffs.
Trinity opened the Class 4A playoffs last week, by taking care of business at the Argo Regional. Senior guard Lauren Prochaska scored 15 points to lead Trinity past St. Ignatius 49-33 in the Argo Regional championship game on Feb. 20.
Trinity (24-5) led 21-11 at halftime and quickly extended its lead over 20 points early in the third quarter against the Wolfpack. The Blazers went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter to build a 39-18 advantage, essentially paving the way to a regional title.
“Our pressure defense was the key,” Trinity coach Ed Stritzel said. “We forced many turnovers and had [Saint] Ignatius out of their offensive rhythm most of the night.”
In support of Prochaska offensively, Annie McKenna contributed 14 points and Kaitlin Aylward had 12 points for the balanced Blazers.
Defensively, Trinity was even more effective as Aylward held St. Ignatius power forward Kate Gallagher to single-digit scoring. Junior Patricia Stritzel, who scored eight points, also played well on defense for the Blazers, limiting St Ignatius’ top shooter Gabby Diamond to just 10 points.
“We’ve definitely been working on our defense a lot in practice,” Prochaska said. “We’ve been working on boxing out and making sure we have proper positioning. Once we get the ball, we want to push the tempo. I thought we did a really good job of that against [Saint] Ignatius.”
The Blazers opened the playoffs by crushing regional host Argo 71-28 as Stritzel scored 16 points and Prochaska netted 15 points. McKenna (11 points) and Aylward (10 points) also reached double figures.
Next up for the Blazers is Kenwood, which knocked off Riverside-Brookfield 69-55 to claim the RB Regional championship. Alanna Slaughter, Alyssa Moore and Sharese Scott lead the fast-paced Broncos (22-7), who claimed their first-ever regional title by beating RB.
Like Trinity, the Broncos like to apply pressure defense and get out in transition, which should make for an intriguing sectional semifinal matchup at Hinsdale South (Feb. 25/8 p.m.). Whitney Young and North Lawndale square off in the other sectional semifinal (Feb. 25/6 p.m.), just a few hours before the Blazers and Broncos battle.
Whether it’s their full court press or stifling man-to-man defense, Trinity has been diligently preparing to face the Broncos’ relentless pressure.
“We’ve been working on breaking the press,” Prochaska said. “When we played Neuqua Valley, we struggled with their press. So we’ve been focusing on different types of press breakers and handling pressure.”
The semifinal winners will meet in Thursday’s Hinsdale South Sectional title game at 7 p.m.
“Our team is focused on the job at hand and that is to take care of Kenwood,” Stritzel said. “We’re very focused and determined to make a long run in the state playoffs.”
Last year, Trinity (a No. 2 sectional seed) made a surprisingly early exit in the playoffs via a shocking 71-64 loss to 15th-seeded Proviso East. This season, the Blazers aren’t taking any team for granted.
“From past experience, we know we have to just take it game by game,” Prochaska said. “Focusing on our game plan for Kenwood is definitely our top priority. We are mentally preparing because in any situation, you need to be ready for anything. We’re definitely not taking anyone lightly.”