ROSWELL — Blessed Trinity had the perfect solution to stopping Chestatee leading scorer Parker Smith: Prevent him from getting the ball, and when he does get the ball, don’t let him get off any uncontested shots.
Smith, who came into the game averaging more than 32 points per game, scored only seven points (on 1-of-10 shooting), and the War Eagles lost their first round Class AAA playoff game to Blessed Trinity 81-45 on Friday night in Roswell.
While leaning heavily on one player carried the War Eagles (22-8) to the state playoffs, ultimately it led to their demise.
"When you rely on one guy and the shots don’t go in, (a loss) can happen," Chestatee coach Russ Triaga said. "But no matter what happened tonight, Parker Smith is still the best player that put on a uniform tonight and he’s the only one out of all these guys out here that is not going to pay for college and that’s just the truth."
With Smith being shut down from the opening tip, the War Eagles relied on senior Branden Jovaag to carry the team.
Jovaag scored 10 of Chestatee’s 22 first-half points and ended the game with 13 points. Sophomore Lamar Brooks also gave the War Eagles scoring off the bench with 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
But it was the Titans’ ability to contain Smith that was the key to the game.
"We knew they’d run a lot of screens to try and get him the ball," Blessed Trinity coach Brian Marks of Smith. "We played a box-and-one to try and keep the ball out of his hands, and once he caught the ball we we’re going to double-team him."
Despite the No. 5-ranked Titans’ ability to stop the Tennessee State signee, Chestatee was still able to head into halftime down by only nine points, in large part to the play of Jovaag and Brooks.
"Those other guys stepped up and I thought they played great," Smith said.
While Jovaag and Brooks were able to keep the War Eagles in the game for 16 minutes, the game got away from Chestatee in the second half, when Blessed Trinity (27-3) went to a full court press on defense.
That pressure led to six Chestatee turnovers in the third quarter and the Titans used a 13-4 run to close out the period to increase their lead to 17 points.
"The game just got away from us in the third quarter," Triaga said. "We got out of character, forced some shots and they hurt us around the basket most of the night."
Hurting the War Eagles the most around the basket was 6-foot-7 senior Ryan Aquino, who had 11 rebounds (seven in the first half) and four blocks on the night. Aquino also was the focal point of the Titans offense, as the team used him in the high post to create wide-open 3-point looks for guards Jordan Callahan and Tyler Cerone. The two senior guards capitalized on those wide-open shots, scoring a combined 41 points, including seven 3-pointers.
The two also led the Titans in the fourth quarter, when Blessed Trinity outscored Chestatee 32-13.
Despite the loss, Chestatee’s coach remained proud.
"These guys have made two trips to the state tournament and won 22 games this year," Triaga said. "I’ve got nothing but love for my players and my school and this doesn’t blemish anything."