It may sound like typical coach-speak to say every game can come down to just a few possessions. But when you look at the Euless Trinity boys basketball team’s first half of District 5-6A play, that’s about as accurate as can be.
“It’s absolutely what we expected as far as the tightness of the teams,” Trojans coach Mark Villines said. “We knew they were all good, and every game is going to come down to a possession or two. Essentially, that is exactly what has happened.”
In fact, of Trinity’s seven games in its first trip through the district schedule, six were decided by four points or less.
The Trojans reached the midway point of district competition mired in a logjam of teams at 5-2, including Hebron and Flower Mound. Another pair of teams, Lewisville and Flower Mound Marcus, are a game back at 4-3.
Trinity’s two losses, to Hebron and Lewisville, came by a combined three points, including the 66-65 loss last Friday at home to the Farmers. Outside of its 83-64 win over L.D. Bell, the Trojans’ victories have come by three, four and three points.
Last season, Trinity struggled in close games, losing three times by a single point and twice in overtime. This season, the Trojans have done a better job closing out tight ball games.
“Experience is number one,” Villines said. “Having a lot of the same guys from last year.”
But the second key factor in Trinity’s success or failure this season could also fall under the label of coach-speak — making free throws.
“I know that’s very cliché, but I do think that when it comes down to these, you’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities you’re given,” Villines said.
The coach pointed out that when his athletes shoot better than 70 percent from the free-throw line, they win those games. When they shoot in the 60s or below, they lose.
Friday’s loss to Lewisville also ended a three-game win streak for Trinity. Villines said he felt his team was playing its best of the season until then.
“I feel like we took a step back Friday night,” he said, noting it was the Trojans’ second home loss. “That’s a little concerning, because you really need to take care of your home games and go steal some on the road. Ours is different. We’ve had some huge road wins in this first half. Hopefully, we can get right at home and steal a few more road wins and set us up for a potential district championship.”
In order to do that, Villines wants his team to focus on itself going forward, not the opposition.
“Our biggest key this stretch run is just going to be us,” he said. “I tell the boys every day we have to go beat these teams in our district because they don’t beat themselves. Our biggest X-factor is the Trinity Trojans. If we can continue to play together and play unselfish and play for the right reasons, I think we’ve got a really good shot.”
Aside from leading scorers Jhivvan Jackson and Devin Newton, Villines said his club needs a consistent third scorer to step up. Some nights it’s been Josh Kashila, and on a few occasions — notably the Flower Mound and Marcus games — that has been Hunter Whitcher. Villines feels that if Whitcher can prove a consistent scoring threat, Trinity becomes a more dangerous team.
“If we can keep Hunter online, I think we’re a tough matchup,” Villines said.
The Trojans open the second run through district at Trophy Club Byron Nelson on Tuesday. The Bobcats started the 5-6A campaign slowly, but have won two of their past three.