TJ Long waited more than a year for Friday night to arrive. It ended up everything the Holy Trinity senior had hoped.
The 6-4 swingman transferred at the beginning of last season from Chaminade to Holy Trinity and sat out the year because of transfer rules. Finally dressed in a Titans uniform to face his former squad, he made two of the key plays that lifted Holy Trinity to an 86-80 CHSAA double-overtime victory at Chaminade’s Activity-Athletics Center in Mineola.
Long rebounded a missed three-point attempt from the corner by Titans guard Mike Sixsmith, drew a foul going back up with it and made a pair of free throws with six-tenths of a second left to tie it at 78 and force the second OT. He later drained a pull-up jumper to put Holy Trinity (9-2, 1-1) ahead for good.
After each of those sequences, Titans fans in attendance chanted, “We’ve got TJ!”
“My emotions were all over coming back here,” Long said. “Taking those free throws, my mind was everywhere. I was just glad they went in.”
As the Titans drained the final seconds off the clock, Sixsmith urged Long to dribble off the last ticks — “finish it out,” he said — but Long demurred.
“I just know he wanted this one bad,” Sixsmith said.
A layup by Holy Trinity’s Jared Weakly with 1:06 left in the fourth quarter tied the score at 65 and forced overtime. After Kieran Dorney scored eight of his 31 points in the first overtime for Chaminade (6-5, 1-1), Sixsmith had four of his 31 points and Long four of his 19 points in the second overtime.
Long’s pull-up jumper was the only basket for the Titans in the second extra frame, but they held on by going 6-for-8 on free throws.
Mike Margetson added 13 points and Sixsmith had eight assists for Holy Trinity. For Chaminade, Cooper Francis had 21 points, including five three-pointers. Joe Guterding had 17 points and did a great job of limiting Long to 10 points in regulation despite giving up six inches.
The defending league champion Titans played well in the non-conference portion of the season but produced a clunker in Tuesday’s CHSAA opener, losing to St. Mary’s by 25 points. This was a great bounce-back win.
“That loss just wasn’t us out there on the court,” Long said. “This game, it was us.”
“We’re gritty,” Sixsmith said. “I’ve been saying it’s a bunch of guys who are ready for war. This game tonight was a war and it ended up a great team win.”