FROSTBURG — Melo Trimble was unstoppable and Bishop O’Connell was unbeatable Saturday night at Frostburg State University.
Trimble made the ACIT championship game a personal showcase, had 27 points in the first half and finshed with 34 points, seven assists and six rebounds as the Knights led from start to finish in an 85-75 win over Benedictine in one of the more entertaining tournament finals in the tournament’s 53-year history.
Trimble had 17 points and four three-point shots in the first quarter, and at the half was 9 for 11 from the field. The junior guard who has already committed to the University of Maryland, finished 11 for 16 from the field, 6 for 9 from three-point range and 7 of 9 from the foul line in winning tournament MVP honors.
“To all the Maryland fans, I know you want him next year,’’ said O’Connell head coach Joe Wootten. “But I’m glad you’re not getting him next year.
“He’s a tremendous player and I’m so proud of him. I’m proud of this whole team,” Wootten continued. “Melo’s become the point, and learned how to give the ball up and when to shoot it. The pass he made to Butts for the three-point play at the end was probably the play of the game. Melo has probably 12 30-point games this year. To have 30 and seven assists, that mean’s you’re a player,” Wootten said.
“I’m proud off all the guys. Jamall Gregory had a great tournament, Junior Etou was unbelievable with the blocks and rebounds and Roy Butts had a great year and a very strong championship game tonight.”
As defending champions, O’Connell and Trimble will be returning to the ACIT next March.
“I just kept shooting the shots my teammates told me to shoot,” Trimble said. “Like the (Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship) St. John’s game, I knew I had to turn it up a notch. It was the championship game.
“We came off a loss to Benedictine in the Virginia state finals and that hurt us. We knew we should have won that game but the WCAC took a lot out of us. We wanted a rematch, and we got one.”
Nick Coppola of Benedictine was the Most Outstanding Player. Trimble and Coppola were joined on the all-tournament team by Detrick Mostella of La Lumiere, Junior Etou of O’Connell, Kamerin Williams of Mount St. Joe’s.
Robert Johnson of Benedictine, Chris Jenkins of Gonzaga, Phil Booth of Mount St. Joe’s, Tevan Saddler of St. Frances and Quincy Redmon of Bishop Walsh were named to the second team.
Butts, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, had 21 points, Etou, a 6-7 senior, had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Jamall Gregory seven points and six rebounds for O’Connell (34-5), which shattered a 40-year ACIT record for team shooting percentage in the three games. The Knights were 29 for 41 for the game (70.7 percent) and 75 for 118 (63.5 percent) for the tournament. The previous tournament record was set by DeMatha, at 54.8 percent, in 1973. The single-game record is 72 percent, set by DeMatha in 1973 and matched by Archbishop Carroll in 1997.
Butts and Etou were especially tough inside, Butts shooting 8 of 11 and Etou 7 of 10.
“Melo Trimble is a fantastic player and he was on fire tonight,’’ said Benedictine coach Robert Churchwell. “The whole team was pretty much on fire ... they didn’t miss much.”
Coppola had 22 points and six assists, Robert Johnson 19 points for Benedictine (33-5).
O’Connell led 17-3 after the first 3:30, with Trimble hitting two three-point goals and converting a three-point play during the run. It was 25-19 after the first quarter, 44-36 at halftime and 63-47 heading into the fourth quarter. The lead ballooned to 17, 71-54, after a Gregory shot in the lane with just under five minutes left.
But Benedictine roared back, doing damage with a pressing defense and outscoring O’Connell 13-1 over the next two minutes. Johnson had nine points in the spurt, and a tip-in by Khris Lane chopped the once bloated advantage to only five, 72-67, with 2:45 to go.
Trimble, held to seven points in the second half, drove the lane and fed Butts for a three-point play that made it 76-67, and dished to Etou for another bucket that made it 78-70. Benedictine cut it to five again, 79-74 with 51 seconds left after two foul shots by Coppola, but Butts, Etou and Ako Adams combined to go 6 for 6 from the foul line the rest of the way.
“We didn’t shoot very well, and the kids kind of got down at times because our offense wasn’t clicking,” Churchwell said. “But we did fight back hard, and were right there in the end. I am so proud of our boys. They fought hard.”
Mike Mathews is a sports writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.