Tigers rally comes up short as MCC takes district title

Nickson, Coleman combine for 52 points


Holy Trinity's Dru Nickson (right) drives to the basket for two of his 35 points during Friday night's Class 5A, District 7 championship game at MCC. The Hustlers used a big first half to defeat the Tigers 74-58.


The Holy Trinity boys basketball team turned a game that looked like it was going to be a blowout into an entertaining second half Friday night.

But in the end, a 20-point halftime deficit – and a very good MCC Hustlers team – proved too much to overcome.

The Hustlers hit their free throws and made the plays they had to down the stretch to come away with a 74-58 victory in the Class 5A, District 7 championship game at MCC.

Holy Trinity (20-7) will travel to Lakeland on Thursday to play District 8 champion McKeel Academy (19-4) in the regional quarterfinals.

Junior guard Dru Nixon (35 points) and junior forward Seth Coleman (17 points) combined for 52 of Holy Trinity’s 58 points against MCC (24-3), which will host Avon Park (18-6) in its regional quarterfinal matchup.

Should Holy Trinity and MCC both win, they would meet again in the regional semifinals, where the Tigers would need to avoid the pitfalls that plagued them Friday night.

Much like their game at Holy Trinity earlier this season, the Hustlers dominated the first quarter, going on a big run at the end of the period to take a 28-11 lead. It was 45-25 at the half.

“We got rattled and kind of didn’t come back until the second half when we regrouped,” Holy Trinity coach Steve Henderson said. “I thought we became a little more aggressive.”

Holy Trinity cut the MCC lead to nine at 62-53 with 2:53 to play and again at 64-55 with 2:05 remaining. The Tigers appeared to have the momentum, as well as two chances to cut the margin down to seven. But two missed free throws, a turnover and some clutch foul shooting by the Hustlers put the game out of reach.

“If we clean up a couple of errors here and there in that first quarter, I think we’d be right in there in the game,” Henderson said. “The big thing we’ve been preaching to them is we’ve been struggling to put four (quarters) together all year.

“The games where we put four together, we do well. In the games (against) an equal, athletic team like MCC, you can’t put three quarters together and expect to win.”

Among the positives the Tigers could take from this one was the fact that they were still playing hard despite facing such a big deficit, and the play of Nixon, who had 21 of his 35 points in the second half.

“Dru had a big night for us,” Henderson said. “Dru can shoot it, really fill it up. I think he started really catching his momentum in the second half and feeling confident.

“When he does that, he’s hard to stop. I think he really stepped up for us.”