A Championship Deferred: Tale Of The BT Titans
Published: March 13, 2008
The Blessed Trinity Titans are minutes away from taking the court as they break the huddle at Druids Hills’ gymnasium on Jan. 29, a place where Blessed Trinity is winless. They would use three different zone defenses to keep a quick, 3-point shooting Druid Hills team off balance. It also took clutch free-throw shooting from senior forward Ryan Aquino with 7.8 seconds left in the game to seal a 52-48 victory and the team’s 21st consecutive win. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
ROSWELL—The Blessed Trinity High School varsity boys basketball team won 22 consecutive games during their 2007-2008 season before they lost their first game. It’s the basketball program’s longest winning streak and the second longest in school history behind softball. In the photos that follow, The Georgia Bulletin chronicles the team in its final month of the season from the end of the regular season to the region tournament and finally the state playoffs. Blessed Trinity took on the likes of Dunwoody, Clarkston, Towers, South Atlanta, Chestatee and Hart County. They were two games away from the Final Four when their quest for the state championship ended Feb. 26 in Hartwell during the second-round Sweet 16 game at the Hart County High School gymnasium. While the team fell short of the state title for Class AAA, it did not tarnish this special season that took the program to new heights and rallied a community behind it in the process. Blessed Trinity finished the season with the most wins and best record in school history at 27-4.‘Extremely hard work, unity and prayer will take you a long way in basketball, but more importantly in life.’ - Head Coach Brian Marks
Sixth-year head coach Brian Marks, outlines his pre-game talk for the team before its Feb. 15 game against South Atlanta. He cited the team’s defeat of highly regarded South Atlanta in the region semifinals as one of his proudest moments in the 2007-2008 season.
Coach Marks expects his players’ undivided attention and their best effort in practice. In its Feb. 14 game against Towers High School, Blessed Trinity was playing for a trip to the state playoffs, a team goal at the beginning of the season. During Feb. 13 practice, junior forward Arris Brundidge goes up for a running jump shot in the lane as (l-r) assistant coach Jamie Wagner, Austin Cremins and Kohl Hegetschweiler watch from courtside.
In 2007 Carol Cuviello, far right, initiated a prayer effort known as “Spiritual Adoption of BT Athletes,” among the parents of Blessed Trinity basketball players. Since then the idea has spread to other sports and schools. Each parent takes a prayer card with a player’s name and they pray for that athlete throughout the season. On Feb. 19 basketball parents, including Cheryl McCarrey, Cindy Feldman, Jessica O’Brien, Carol Aquino, Jen Cerone, and Jeanne and Gary Kopacka, recite the luminous mysteries of the rosary in the Blessed Trinity chapel, three days prior to the team’s first round state playoff game.
Four and a half hours prior to its Feb. 1 game against Grady High School, the team gathers for Mass in the school chapel. Theology instructor Father Augustine Tran was the main celebrant for the Mass. Kneeling on the outside are (l-r) senior guards Jordan Callahan and Sean Cunningham and head coach Brian Marks. Blessed Trinity went on to a 97-71 victory, but the team’s regular season consecutive win streak ended the next night at 22 after a 61-55 loss to Marist School.
The team listens to a pre-game talk by Coach Marks before the Feb. 5 home game against Dunwoody. He said, “Be smart with the ball and take high percentage shots.” In a road game earlier in the season, Blessed Trinity defeated Dunwoody by 5 points.
Awaiting the players is a large crowd and an electrifying atmosphere. Dunwoody won the game 69-60. Since both teams were tied with wins and losses after the game, a coin toss determined the region tournament seeding. Leaving the game with a smile, school chaplain Father Kevin Peek said, “I’ll have to seek out the patron saint of coin tosses.” Blessed Trinity became the second seed after losing the coin toss Feb. 10.
Coach Marks, squatting center, lists three keys to victory in the Feb. 14 game against Towers: stop transition baskets, attack the offensive boards and crisp passing. Guard Jordan Callahan hit 19 of his 23 points in the second half, and forward Ryan Aquino finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Blessed Trinity also shot 78 percent from the free-throw line as they won the game 66-50. The victory marked Blessed Trinity’s first state playoff appearance as a region 5B-AAA team.
With a national ranking and one loss to the country’s top-ranked high school team at the time, St. Benedict of Newark, N.J., South Atlanta took the court as the odds-on favorite in the region semifinal game. In a great display of team ball, Blessed Trinity pulled off an incredible upset (67-66) over South Atlanta. The players share their unbridled jubilation with assistant coach Jamie Wagner. When Coach Marks appeared, both coaches received a victory dousing with water.
Sophomore guard Austin Cremins kneels by the scorekeeper’s table. With 3:00 remaining in Blessed Trinity’s first round state playoff game against Chestatee High School, and the team holding a commanding 33-point lead, the crowd chants, “We want Cremins!” He joined his other second-team cronies at the 2:58 mark and when Cremins scored 2 points, his first of the season and the first of his varsity career, the crowd erupted into a frenzy. With the 81-45 win Blessed Trinity advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the playoffs for the first time.
The end of their championship quest and playoff run weighs heavy on the team and coaches following the Feb. 26 game. The loss to a good team in a tough environment came on a night when Blessed Trinity had a season low 23 rebounds and 19 turnovers. Coach Marks, foreground left, was proud of the team’s second-half effort as they fought to the end. Blessed Trinity finished the season at 27-4, the most wins and best record in school history.
Guard Jordan Callahan (#1) goes up for 2 of his 23 points in the team’s 73-68 loss to Hart County in Hartwell during the second-round state playoff game. Callahan ends his basketball career at Blessed Trinity with the most points in a single season (443).
Senior guard Jordan Callahan holds the region runner-up trophy. He is joined by teammates (l-r) Tyler Cerone, Ben Kopacka, Sean Cunningham, Kohl Hegetschweiler, Vinny Cuviello and Sean Rouse. It was Blessed Trinity’s first trip to the region finals.
The Feb. 12 game against Clarkston begins the team’s quest for a region championship. Blessed Trinity’s full-court trapping press presented problems for Clarkston. Shooting with confidence, Blessed Trinity also hit 10 3-pointers on the night as they went on to win 90-50. With 3:43 left in the game, Sean Cunningham came in with the other second-team players. He hit all 6 of his points on two 3-pointers.
Senior guard Tyler Cerone hit four 3-pointers and led the team with 21 points, but Dunwoody beat Blessed Trinity in the region championship 58-49. Coach Marks thought the team gave it their all, but he believed his players were physically exhausted from playing four games in five nights. Dunwoody had only played two games because of their bye and they were both blowouts, so they got to rest their starters. Cerone is BT’s all-time leading scorer.
Blessed Trinity fans show their support with a round of applause as the team leaves the Hart County gym Feb. 26 and returns to the bus for the 104-mile drive back to the Blessed Trinity campus, Roswell.
Scenes from the final game of the season versus Hart County: