STERLING — The fourth-seeded Smoky Valley Vikings and fifth-seeded Trinity Catholic Celtics squared off Tuesday night in the opening night of the first round of the 2017 Sterling Invitational. The Celtics needed an extra five minutes to complete the upset, as they advanced to the semifinals with a 66-58 overtime victory.
Steady inside scoring from the Celtics, thanks to Connor Remar and Angel Martinez, along with a suffocating full-court press helped keep Smoky Valley at bay. Remar locked down the paint all game long on both ends, but he was never needed more than in the closing seconds.
They say lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice, but with less than 30 seconds on the clock Smoky Valley down just a mere point, the Celtics’ rim protector swatted Nick Reinert’s layup attempt into the hands of Zach Able, who turned around and attempted a layup on the other side, and Remar sent it 20 feet away with another thunderous block.
That led to a Celtic free throw, which proved crucial when Smoky Valley’s Ryan Weldy stole a pass and forced overtime at the final buzzer with an open layup moments later.
In overtime, Remar got the inside scoring started off following a precise Jack Neal pass from the top of the key. The inside scoring came in bunches in overtime, and Smoky Valley couldn’t keep up. Trinity Catholic sophomore Kaleb Hammeke had ice in his veins in overtime, nailing four consecutive free throws to put away the Vikings and Nick Reinert’s 25 points.
The first period was all Trinity Catholic, with a full-court man-to-man press leaving Smoky Valley stumbling with turnovers that led to inside buckets. The second half became a grudge match for both teams, with turnovers highlighting a slow-paced second quarter. At the half, the Celtics led 27-19. Trinity coach Joe Hammersmith was more than pleased with their tenacious defense and Remar’s performance.
Smoky Valley would ramp up the intensity in the third and fourth periods, though. The Vikings were able to get Remar in foul trouble, forcing him to sit most of the third quarter, and immediately exploited the now-shortened Celtics lineup. They were able to tie the game up on several occasions due to Reinert’s big-time scoring, yet were never able to capitalize on their runs, as Trinity Catholic always seemed to respond at the right time.
“We knew they were going to make runs,” Hammersmith said. “Even when it went into overtime, there was no sense of panic in our players. All of them did well tonight.”
Smoky Valley faces Lyons at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Sterling.