January 20th, 2021

Varga Lifts Tigers Past Rocks


Ed Peak

Staff Writer

Varga Lifts Tigers Past Rocks
photo by Ed Peak

It was no accident that St. Xavier's Ben Varga made the shot that broke Trinity's  come back. St. X led virtually all the way but a furious late rally by their rivals was one Varga and his teammates won't forget. Visiting St. X hung on for a 62-54 victory, Tuesday night.


It was a deep three point shot from the right baseline that swished through the net giving the lead back to the Tigers (55-52) with 2:11 remaining. Mekhi Smith's shot had bounced off the right of the rim where Calvin Schubert rebounded and threw a perfect pass to the wide open Varga. 


"A lot of hard work goes into big shots like that," said Varga. "Those are shots that you live for in big games like that. You just put in a lot of work to make those."


St. X secured its third straight win over Trinity scoring 10 of the games final 12 points. The Tigers (5-1) led by as many as 19 points (44-25) after Varga made a three point basket with 4:02 in the third quarter.


Trinity didn't quit. The Shamrocks went to a full court press scoring 12 straight points to end the quarter. Another Varga three pointer with 6:25 steadied the Tigers and staked the lead to 51-39. 


The game really tightened as Trinity scored 10 straight points as senior Zach Stahlman's three pointer rallied the Rocks within 51-50 with 3:24.


Ethan Hodge's layup with  2:43 after St.X's John Carroll made one of two free throws tied the game 52-52. Hodge fouled on the drive missed the free throw.


That set up Varga's shot as the Tigers scored 10 of the games final 12 points.


Varga finished with 16 points making six of nine field goals including four of seven three's. Junior forward Mekhi Smith, a standout football player, added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Smith, six of nine shooting from the floor, had some nifty drives for easy baskets.


"They put us on our heels a little bit with their comeback," said Varga. "We just had to stay mentally tough. I told our guys Tiger Woods. Keep the Tiger Woods mentality and just stay tough.


"We knew it was coming (the comeback), " said Varga. It's a rivalry game and we knew they would come back. We just had to deal with it."


St. X made 58.3 percent of their shots from the field (21 of 36) including seven of 18 three pointers. The Tigers made 13 turnovers but had 12 assist. Cole Sherman came off the St. X bench scoring 11 points.


"A lot of emotions when into that game," said St. X coach Kevin Klein. "I couldn't have been more proud the way our guys came out and played the first 16 minutes. We were locked in. We knew Trinity was going to throw a much better effort and game plan the second half.

"A credit to them for making things interesting and difficult," said Klein. "That's a very good team that's been in a lot of big games. Very proud of the way we responded in our first road game. We got hit with a lot of adversity......got knocked down four, five times. We made enough winning plays and free throws to pull it out."


Trinity (4-2) had a difficult time shooting the ball making 20 of 55 field goals for  36.4 percent. That included six of 24 in the first half. Hodge led the Shamrocks with 14 points while Miles Franklin and Zach Stahlman added 11. Franklin had a particular poor shooting game making four of 16 including one of nine three point attempts.


"We were not sharp tonight," said Trinity coach Mike Szabo. "We were not very good. I think we took a lot of quick shots. We didn't do anything all that well except that's play hard and create some turnovers."


While Szabo wasn't happy with the outcome he did like the comeback. "We got right back in the game, tied it then give up a defensive rebound and they got a three off it. We just shot ourselves in the foot."


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