Ahead 23-21 over Austin at the half, Trinity Lutheran boys basketball coach Aaron Rudzinski told the team to relax and take control of the game.
That message resonated, and the Cougars (2-2) distanced themselves over the Eagles 66-51 Tuesday at the Bollinger Athletic Complex.
“At halftime we talked about taking control of the game,” Rudzinski said. “That’s one of the biggest messages we always have whether we’re down, tied or even up, we just want to come out strong in the third quarter and set the tone.”
Both teams struggled to establish a rhythm in the first quarter as possession of the ball went back-and-forth.
Trinity and Austin missed open shots, threw the ball away and recorded a handful of fouls.
The quarter ended with the Cougars ahead 8-5.
The second quarter started in similar fashion, until both teams picked up the pace.
The Cougars went on a 6-0 run before Eagles’ junior Trevor McIntosh hit a three at the buzzer to put his team down by two points at the half. Trinity came out of the locker room energized and started on a 9-0 run to open the third quarter, forcing the Eagles to take two quick timeouts within 30 seconds.
That run was fueled by Cougars’ senior guard Keegan Rebber’s.
Rebber led the Cougars with 30 points in the game, 12 of which came in the third quarter. Rebber made a 3-pointer and got fouled to record a four-point play early in the third. He also had a strong night from the line, going 5-5.
Rudzinski said Rebber had a career night and that he executed the floor well.
“He has a nice drive to the basket and he can finish nicely at the rim,” he said,” Rudzinski said. “He’s so smooth, quick, and lean and he’s really difficult to defend if he gets the first step on his defender.”
The Cougars outscored the Eagles 22-11 in the third quarter, to go up 45-32 after 24 minutes.
The fourth quarter looked better for the Eagles, but the Cougars kept the pressure both on offense and defense and outscored the Eagles 21-19. Following the game, Rudzinski said the team has a lot of mental strength and talent and needs to utilize that properly.
“We have lots of ability, they just have figure out what level it is they need to be at and I think in the second half tonight, we showed that,” he said.
Rudzinski said the players used a lot of energy in the second half as the defensive strategy switched to press defense and said that’s what helped the team score key transition points.
“We forced them into quick shots and we were able to rebound and then come back down the court we were able to get transition shots because we had the advantage off those missed shots,” he said.