Trojans tame Cañada’s Colts

View Slideshow

Somehow, Cañada lit up the scoreboard first in the Colts’ and Trojans’ season-closing game Feb. 19, and for a little while, the visitors enjoyed a two-point lead.

It didn’t last long.

Skyline not only answered those two points, but dominated the rest of the contest, never trailing, rarely leading by less than 10, and finally, closing out the season with a final score of 84-71.

Skyline’s young players seemed to take the game as a chance to demonstrate how their teamwork has improved over the course of the season, spreading the ball around enough for five Trojans to score in double digits. They showed control and confidence, and at times appeared to wholly enjoy running circles around their opponents.

“I told our guys, when you play a rival game like this, it should be fun,” said Trojan’s head coach, Justin Piergrossi. “These are the games you look back on. You always remember rival games.”

The game harkened back to a time in decades past when both teams were Coast Conference powerhouses. This season, the two teams, both full of freshman players and first-year coaches, ended up at the bottom of the Coast Conference North standings.

Skyline’s All-Coast Conference point guard Marques Benjamin did his best to hide that fact as he had a typically solid night, sinking a trio of 3-pointers and dishing out eight of his 115 conference-leading assists.

Watching Benjamin play, Piergrossi had nothing but praise for the 5-foot-10-inch freshman.

“Marques has been 100 percent consistent all year, which is, I think, the most important thing for a point guard. He’s been solid every night.”

Also leading the Trojan attack, Filip Popovic and Marcus Hagwood collected 15 points each on the night.

Piergrossi also noted that forward Chris Strong “had a tremendous night” on the defense, pulling down 10 rebounds.

After Hagwood scored on a breakaway late in the second half, punctuating his unassisted play with an impressive slam dunk and putting a period on Cañada’s hopes for a comeback, Coach Piergrossi pulled the starters from the game to give five of the Trojans’ backup players a chance to get some real game experience before hanging up their jerseys for the offseason, and they had no trouble maintaining Skyline’s lead.

After time had expired and the last lingering notes of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” had dissipated, Piergrossi had an optimistic outlook on next season and said he was excited to coach the very same players next winter.

“I’m looking forward to having these guys back with a year of experience under their belt,” he said, pointing out that “none of them had ever played a college game in their life before, and a couple of them hadn’t played in high school.”

Skyline’s dean of athletics, Andreas Wolf also expressed a great deal of positivity about the school’s basketball program and its relatively inexperienced team.

“They won some games they shouldn’t have won, and they lost some games they should have lost,” he said.

Wolf also expressed both an appreciation for how Piergrossi exceeded his expectations as head coach and heightened his expectations for next year.

“When he got hired (last June), he hit the ground sprinting,” Wolf said of the rookie coach. “With his work ethic, his professionalism, and his ability to communicate with his student athletes, I think this program is going to get right back to the top where it used to be.”