As his team exited the locker room after a tough loss at South Fayette, their fourth consecutive, Trinity basketball coach Bob Miles sensed some disappointment from his players but he did not sense panic.
After an 8-0 start this season quickly turned to an 8-4 record, Trinity relied on its leadership and experience to turn things around.
"I think when they walked out of the locker room there was obviously some disappointment," Miles said. "They became determined they weren't going to allow this to take them over. We got back to work, we relied on the defense and the kids responded."
The team was aided by a schedule that had them back in the gym the very next night for a home game against Ringgold.
"I think that was real good for us," Miles said. "It was better than going back and practicing. They had to refocus and refocus quickly. It really pulled some of that toughness out of them."
The Hillers won that game, 54-42, in overtime, two nights later they won another two-point game, this time at Keystone Oaks. With five more wins against Quaker Valley, Moon Area, Montour (twice) and a non-section conquest of New Castle, Trinity is all of a sudden 15-4 overall, 8-2 in Class AAA Section 5.
Having clinched a WPIAL playoff berth, the Hillers are a game-and-a-half behind first-place South Park (15-4, 10-1) and still have a chance to share the section title. The Hillers have two section games remaining, at home tonight against South Fayette and Friday night at South Park, which could be for a share of the section title.
"It has been a work in progress, we have had some success," Miles said.
Trinity finished 10-12 last season and missed qualifying for the playoffs. This year the big difference has been the team's ability to win close games. The Hillers are 3-0 in overtime games. They are 9-1 in single-digit games.
Trinity returned three senior starters this year, 5-foot-6 point guard Kelly Korpus, 5-9 forward Brittany Ross and 5-8 guard/forward Jasmine Fuqua.
Rachel Phillis, a 5-9 junior guard/forward, and 5-4 freshman guard Sierra Kotchman also start. Mary Dunn, a 6-2 sophomore center, gets lots of playing time off the bench. Despite not being a starter, Dunn is the leading scorer and rebounder on the team. She averages more than 13 points per game.
"She has nice size inside, we like to get her down on the block," Miles said. "She cleans up a lot of misses and gets put-backs. She is only a sophomore. It is incredible where she is now compared to where she was last year."
Trinity surprised some by its hot start, winning eight consecutive games to open the season. The Hillers won the Greensburg Salem tip-off tournament title and also scored non-section wins against neighboring rivals Canon-McMillan and Washington.
"We kind of thought during the summer we could be pretty good," Miles said. "We saw some good things. I think if there was any surprise is that we started out 8-0. There were some close games, the kids really dug in and played hard. That was probably the biggest thing for us."
Abbey O'Connor, a 5-9 freshman forward, and 5-6 sophomore guard Addison Mamula are two of the first players off the bench for Trinity along with Dunn.
"A lot of our players are kind of interchangeable," Miles said. "We have a number of 5-foot-8 players who can play guard or forward. We try to get them to play a couple different positions."
That formula has been working for the Hillers.