The Euless Trinity boys basketball team raced out to an early lead then held off a surging Keller team late for a 61-53 Class 6A bi-district win on Monday night at Colleyville Heritage High School.
Trinity (14-10) will meet El Paso Americas (18-1) in the area round at a time and site to be determined. Americas defeated San Angelo Central 47-35.
Trinity put on a clinic in the first half, racing to a 7-0 lead while Keller struggled shooting, especially from three-point range. The Indians (17-9) hit only 4 of 18 shots (22%) from downtown in the first half and never led, trailing by double digits for much of the game.
“You watch them on film and they put up a lot of shots,” said Trinity coach Mark Villines. “They’re not the Keller of old. They’re playing fast and are really skilled. We felt like if we could guard them the way we’re capable of then we have a chance and if they get off the way that they’re capable shooting then they had a good shot.”
The Trojans built the lead to 11 points at 17-6 with 6:51 left in the second quarter after a basket by Noel Kabanga, who starred for Trinity with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
“He’s been a monster for us for three years,” said Villines of Kabanga, a junior. “The sky is the limit for him and if he can continue to play this way then we might make a pretty good little run.”
Kabanga and Kenyon Williams (10 points, 12 rebounds) helped keep Keller down by double digits from that point, leading by as many as 19 points, until early in the fourth quarter.
The Indians looked inside more in the second half, instead of relying on the three, and chipped away at Trinity’s lead.
A 12-2 run by the Indians, capped by a 3-pointer from Parker Hannah (16 points), cut the lead to six at 42-36 with 5:58 left in the game. But Trinity would never let Keller get any closer.
Keller’s leading scorer Blake Bahr (14.5 points per game) finally started heating up scoring 18 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. Bahr led the Indians with six rebounds. A basket by Bahr cut the lead to six again at the 3:54 mark and a three by Bahr left the Indians down by six for a third time with 15 seconds to go.
“We were in such a great rhythm before the snow storm,” said Keller’s first-year head coach Zach Weir. “We had won five in a row and nine of our last 11 and we were just clicking really well on offense and defense. They fought back tonight and played hard, but it just didn’t happen for us.”
“They can shoot,” said Kabanga. “Coach warned us about how good they were shooting going into the game, but at the end of the day the game is simple. Just put the ball in the basket more than they do and that’s what we did tonight and we did that well.”
Trinity’s defense held Keller to 22.5% (7 of 31) from three and 28% (18 of 65) overall from the field. The Trojans out rebounded Keller 49-22.
“I think that had a lot to do with us because we prepped for it all week and we knew what they were going to do,” said Villines. “They’re a heck of a team so we just knew that it was going to be a war and our kids held on.”
Crisp passing and movement by Trinity helped the Trojans shoot 42% (23 of 55) from the floor. Jeremy Matos ran the offense and came away with nine points, three assists and five rebounds with Malachi Farr chipping in 13 points and four rebounds.
Trinity tried only two three-point shots on the night.
“As a first-year head coach I couldn’t have asked for a better group of young men to just have our backs as coaches because they just never give up,” said Weir. “I can’t say enough about our two seniors (Cole Roberts and Luke Bowen). They laid the foundation for us of hard work and being tough.
“Words can’t say how proud of them I am and I’m just blessed to be their coach. We return nine guys so the future is bright for Keller basketball and I’m excited.”