Fueled by doubters, Holy Trinity boys are back in Class 4A state semifinals

Tigers face Westminster Christian today


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Holy Trinity's Josh Porteous (center) is the only senior on this year's team, which is in the final four for the second straight year.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

As the only senior on this year’s Holy Trinity boys basketball team, Josh Porteous looked at his teammates and saw something most others did not.

Where people saw a team that had graduated six seniors and was inexperienced, Porteous saw a team that had a lot of young talent capable of big things.

When people said the Tigers were in for a rebuilding year, that they would have a hard time even posting a .500 record, Porteous thought Holy Trinity had a chance to get back to the final four for the second year in a row.

Doubt. It has fueled some of the greatest postseason runs in history.

And when people doubted the Holy Trinity boys had a prayer of having another year like the last one, well, Porteous wasn’t the only one who saw things differently.

“Everybody doubting us just gave us more confidence,” sophomore Jashaun Corbin said.

The Tigers (27-3) will play Westminster Christian (22-8) today at 1 p.m. at the Lakeland Center in the Class 4A state semifinals.

Porteous, as it turns out, was quite prophetic.

“It’s amazing,” the Tigers senior guard said. “This is the best feeling ever. It feels better than even last year, knowing how many people doubted us, saying we had a rebuilding year (ahead of us) and that we had zero chance of getting there. It’s awesome.”

The path to get back to the final four has been arduous.

Holy Trinity came back from a nine-point deficit to beat Trinity Prep 51-50 on the road in the regional finals. Before that, they saw archrival Melbourne Central Catholic score the first five points in overtime before rallying for a 70-68 victory on a buzzer-beating putback by Corbin.

“We’re really clutch in late games,” Porteous said. “We just know how to close teams out. I think that’s the difference between us other teams late in the season.”

Well, that and the frenetic pace at which the Tigers play the game at both ends of the floor – particularly on the defensive end. Holy Trinity players are in incredible shape. They have to be in order to keep up the pace coach Steve Henderson wants his team to set.

Asked what people don’t realize about their team, both Porteous and Corbin said what’s not understood is how hard this team works. That conditioning helps them outlast their opponents.

The reason why Porteous was so optimistic about this year’s team is that he saw just how good their defense could become. And along the way, the Tigers have had a lot of young players really step up their games.

“The last three games, a really big player for us has been Seth Coleman,” Henderson said. “Seth is a freshman that comes off the bench. He had 11 points, 12 rebounds in our last games against Trinity Prep.

“He’s just a guy that’s coming in, he’s making plays. He’s rebounding. He’s finding ways to be efficient, even if he’s not scoring. He’s just a really good kid.”

Other Tigers have been making a big impact as well.

“Corey Kaplan’s been stepping up for us and been scoring well for us,” Henderson said “Josh (is) just being our leader. Tay Griffin is a guy they look to. Defensively, he just gets after it and wears people down. He’s not a big-time scoring threat, but he gets his points and he does all the little things well.”

In addition, players like Brandon Schwab, Rey Idowu, Tyler Forde, Tyrel Harris, John Wills, Carter Wagner and Preston Milo have all played big roles throughout the season, too.

Going to back-to-back final fours should have its advantages for the Tigers. For one thing, they won’t be as nervous or perhaps distracted by their surroundings as they were last year when they fell behind by 10 points in the first five minutes and eventually lost to Tallahassee Godby 70-56.

This time, in the second final four appearance in school history, the Tigers have a better idea of what to expect.

“I feel like we were just satisfied to be there because it was the first time,” Corbin said. “Now that we’re back, we have experience. We know what to do.”

Westminster Christian, of course, won’t be any pushover. The Warriors are led by 6-foot-2 senior guard Justin Brown, who led Miami-Dade County with a 27-point scoring average. He is also the program’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,600 career points.

“We’ve had an opportunity to watch two or three game tapes on them,” Henderson said. “They’ve got a really good senior guard (who is) extremely talented. He’s the core of their group. They really push off of his tempo to score.

“We’re hoping to make him have to work and contain him, make other guys have to make plays.”

If the Tigers can get by Westminster Christian, they would play the winner of the other semifinal between Tampa Catholic and Jacksonville Bolles for the Class 4A state championship. The title game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

No matter what happens to the Tigers from here on out, what they’ve accomplished already this season might have just surpassed what they did last year when they made the final four for the first time.

After all, no one expected them to do it again. Well, OK, maybe not everyone …

“I saw the potential,” Porteous said. “I could see where our defense was going to go. We just ended up going on a run.”

And it’s not over yet.