Holy Trinity's first Long Island CHSAA championship since 1992 wasn't necessarily a work of art. But it surely was a good paint job.
The No. 3 Titans eschewed their first-half strategy of long-range shooting in favor of the inside work of 6-2 forward Jimmy Golaszewski, who scored 22 points, making 10 baskets from close range, to spark a gritty 57-55 victory over No. 1 St. Mary's Tuesday night.
"We hoped to spread them out with our shotmaking and then find Jimmy underneath,'' Holy Trinity coach Joe Conefry said. "We had to keep making that extra pass.''
That approach allowed the Titans (21-6) to overcome a serious height disadvantage. The Gaels' frontcourt included 6-11 shot-blocking menace Nicholas Richards, 6-6 leaper Chris Coalman and burly 6-4 scorer Stephen Milhaven. Guard Brandon Thomson was Holy Trinity's tallest player at 6-3.
"They were a lot bigger, but we had a speed advantage,'' said Golaszewski, who twice broke ties in the fourth quarter with baskets in the paint. He also made a huge defensive rebound that led to a pair of free throws by Thomson (nine points) that created a 57-53 lead with 27 seconds left.
St. Mary's (15-9) cut it to 57-55 on a layup by Coalman (11 points) with six seconds left. After two missed free throws by Holy Trinity, Milhaven (14 points), the CHSAA league MVP who made a buzzer-beating halfcourt bank shot at the half, stumbled and could not get off a desperation heave at the end.
Patrick Jackson led the Gaels with 15 points. Peter Alkins scored 13 for Holy Trinity, which advances to the state CHSAA semifinals against upstate winner Buffalo Nichols on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Kellenberg.
"My teammates are very unselfish,'' Golaszewski said. "I knew if I got open, they would find me. Richards was a shot-blocking presence, but we were able to beat them with quickness and defense.''
The Titans used a swarming man-to-man that forced St. Mary's to take some hurried shots. They also double-teamed in the paint, coming up with several timely steals.
"The key to the game was our defense and I'm so proud of how hard they played,'' Conefry said. "Jimmy was guarding a guy five inches taller. We're undersized but we play a really tough man-to-man.''
Holy Trinity, known for its long-distance shooting, dialed up five of its six treys in the first half when it built an eight-point lead before Milhaven cut it to 25-20 with his dramatic half-court heave. Richards converted three conventional three-point plays in the third quarter as St. Mary's crept to within 40-39 before Jack Sixsmith snuck in for a layup that beat the buzzer.
The Titans got the lead up to 49-43 with 5:25 left before the Gaels went on a mini-run to tie it at 49 on Jackson's putback. Then it was back to the paint for Holy Trinity on offense and more unwavering defense.
"We didn't play a great offensive game,'' Conefry said. "We had to grind it out on the defensive end.''
It turned out to be a masterpiece.