MEN'S HOOPS TEAM CLINCHES FIRST CCAC CROWN, NAIA BERTH  (3/1/05)

Trinity's men's basketball team captured the first Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title in school history February 26 when they upended host and top-seeded Cardinal Stritch University 80-70. The championship victory propels the Trolls into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics post-season tournament for the first time ever.

"This championship is a big dividend for all the hard work we've put into this season," third-year coach Tim Walker said. "Our young men bought into our system and dedicated themselves to making it work, and we accomplished a primary goal. We felt that getting to the NAIA tournament was within our reach this year, and we're confident about our prospects for winning."

Trinity's modest 18-14 record includes an undefeated February (8-0) and a run of 10 wins in 11 games since sporting an 8-13 mark. The Trolls earned the second seed in the conference tournament by finishing 8-2 in CCAC regular-season play, one game behind Cardinal Stritch. They split two games with the Wolves before taking the rubber match in Milwaukee to win the tournament.

This year's team is the first to represent Trinity in NAIA post-season action in any sport. The 32-team single-game elimination tournament will take place at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, March 9-15.

When Walker accepted the coaching position in 2002, he set a goal of molding a championship-contending program within five years. An up-tempo playing philosophy and productive recruiting have accelerated his plan, and opponents in the conference are taking notice. Junior Lawrence Weller (Comstock, Michigan) and senior Dean Nauta (Grand Haven, Michigan) earned first-team all-CCAC honors while junior Charles Commeret (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and sophomore Ty DeWitte (Hudsonville, Michigan) received honorable mention.

"We've done well, but we have a lot more to achieve," Walker said. "We've gotten significant contributions from so many players, and that's one reason why we have played so well in the past few weeks. We're peaking at the right time of the year, and we're ecstatic about moving on to the NAIA tournament.

"The conference title enhances our credibility with recruits, which should help us add the kind of student-athletes who will maintain the winning tradition we're building. I'm excited that we have made this step, and we look forward to building on this season."

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