The Shamrocks — No. 1 in The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Cantrall Ratings — were struggling to break down Moore’s 2-3 zone and trailed the Mustangs by a point at Bellarmine’s Knights Hall.
On a team bristling with potential game-changers, it was senior forward Nathan Dieudonne who emerged from the locker room hell-bent on being a second-half savior.
The Boston University signee ramped up his defensive pressure, pulled down one rebound after another and used his size (6-6, 205 pounds) to capitalize in the paint on offense.
Dieudonne tossed in 13 of his 15 points in the final two stanzas and the Rocks coasted to their third LIT title with a 74-57 victory.
“I just started working a little harder and Coach (Mike) Szabo told me to play a little bit better defense and the points would start coming,” Dieudonne said after finishing 6-for-6 from the field with nine rebounds.
It was just the latest in a long line of standout performances for Dieudonne, who started all but one game as a junior last season and averaged 11.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
The Rocks finished 21-8 after falling to Ballard in the opening round of district play.
A year later Dieudonne has become a consistent interior option for an up-tempo Trinity team that won the Republic Bank Holiday Classic last month and entered this week undefeated against in-state competition and on a 10-game win streak.
Trinity’s two losses came to St. Raymond’s (N.Y.) and Salesian (Calif.) at the prestigious City of Palms Classic holiday tournament in Fort Myers, Fla.
“He’s our only big guy so we do need to get him down in the block,” said Szabo. “He’s matured and I think he understands his role and the impact he makes on our team.”
Through 17 games Dieudonne is averaging 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 61 percent from the field and 73.8 percent from the foul line. His offensive versatility makes him a difficult player for most defenses to handle, according to Szabo.
“What sets him apart is the fact that he can do so many things,” Szabo said. “He can finish around the basket, score with his back to the basket or face up and knock down the jump shot. He can also put the ball to the floor and go by you.”
It was this diverse skill set that caught the eye of first-year Boston coach Joe Jones.
“I saw him on the (AAU) circuit this summer and thought he had a nice level of confidence and skill,” said Jones, whose Terriers are defending America East Conference champions. “He comes from a great family and he’s a hardworking kid. I definitely think he has the ability to be a guy that could step in and help us right away.”
The family Jones referenced consists of parents Marie and Carl, brother Danny, 20, and sisters Kianna, 16, and Nadia, 13.
Dad Bowl MVP
There is no shortage of athletic ability among the Dieudonnes.
Carl was a linebacker at the Air Force Academy from 1981-1984 and earned MVP honors in a 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl win over Vanderbilt.
Danny, a 2009 St. Xavier graduate, was a wide receiver on the Tigers’ football team and placed third at the State Meet in the high jump (6-4) his senior year.
Kianna, a six-foot sophomore middle blocker at Sacred Heart Academy, and Nadia, a seventh-grade student at St. Aloysius, are both rising volleyball stars.
Dieudonne said he will try to spend as much time as possible with his family before he heads north in the fall. A 3.6 student, he wants to major in human sciences to prepare for a career in physical therapy.
Two big matchups are on the horizon for Dieudonne and the Rocks.
Joe B. Classic
On Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m., they take on archrival St. X at Freedom Hall before traveling to Montgomery County on Saturday for the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic, where they will face an undefeated Madison Central team at 7:15 p.m.
“It’s always a great game and the intensity will be sky-high,” said Szabo about the matchup with St. X.
Trinity has won five straight against St. X and seven of the last eight. The Tigers entered the week with a record of 11-6 and are led by junior guard Alex Jones (9.9 points per game) and senior forward Nathan Smith (9.6 ppg., 5.3 rpg.).
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.