GOSHEN – Triton boys basketball coach Jason Groves believes without a doubt that Clay Yeo should be a lock for a spot on the Indiana All-Star team when the 2012-13 season ends.
Anyone in the gym at Bethany Christian High School Tuesday night who watched the Trojan senior standout would be silly to disagree with Groves about his star player.
Yeo put on a sensational show worth the price of admission as Triton raced past the Bruins 72-36.
The smooth and versatile Yeo, who will take his talents to Valparaiso University next year, poured in 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the field. The 6-6 do-it-all Yeo also had 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“It would be a shame if he doesn’t make the All-Star team,” said Groves of his superb senior. “Obviously, he’s one of the best players in the state. He’s proven that. He proved it this past summer as a Junior All-Star. His volume of work speaks for itself. He just does so many things. He’s so versatile.”
The storyline Tuesday night was a tale of one outstanding player in Yeo and two completely different Triton teams, one not so good in the first half and one great one in the final two quarters.
The Trojans, who have now won 11 straight regular-season meetings with Bethany Christian, trailed 26-23 at halftime. That was after leading 10-2 to open the game as Yeo scored Triton’s first eight points of the contest. Triton was 10-of-26 from the field in the first half, including 0-of-8 on 3-point tries and 3-of-8 from the free throw line.
Triton, ignited by its in-your-face, man-to-man defense, outscored the Bruins 49-10 in the second half. The Trojans forced the hosts into 19 of their 27 turnovers in the second half, turning many of them into transition baskets, including a steal and two-handed dunk by Yeo. Triton shot 17-of-26 from the field in the final half, including 6-of-10 on treys. Triton outscored the Bruins 28-5 in the third period with Yeo scoring 15 points in the stanza. Bethany made just three field goals in the second half, including a 3-pointer at the final horn.
What did Groves say to his team to spark the dramatic change from the first 16 minutes to the final 16?
“I really didn’t say much at half, I took a different approach tonight,” Groves explained. “The kids knew. I didn’t have to say anything to them. In the first half, we were doing things we don’t teach. We were not executing and we were not in rhythm on our shots. I asked who was going to shoot it with confidence.
“But, it came down to our defensive effort in the second half. We got up in them. We told them to stick them with our man-to-man and we did. We got turnovers and got into transition and we also executed better.
“The thing is that now that we’ve got some guys back from injuries, we have more depth than early in the season when we were only playing 6-7 guys. It’s a good luxury to have to be able to play more guys now.”
Triton got going in the final half thanks also to Darren Harrell. The junior guard knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half and give the Trojans the lead for good. Triton closed the final five minutes of the third period with an 18-1 run, led by Yeo’s work in transition off numerous Bethany turnovers.
“Clay’s effort was really good tonight,” said Groves. “I thought, like our entire team, it was much better in the second half.”
Yeo, for his part, honestly admits he thinks about being an All-Star.
“It’s definitely there in the back of my mind,” Yeo said. “It’s a big goal for me individually and would be a big deal to me. I had a blast playing with the Junior All-Stars. And it would be pretty cool to have my All-Star jersey hung up there at Triton.
“Tonight, I talked to the guys at halftime and just said let’s slow down and execute. We definitely wanted to turn it up on the defensive end. That’s who we are. We wanted to get it out and go. My game is in the open floor. That’s who I am when I can create shots and also create contact and then finish.
“I trusted my teammates in the second half. They stepped up and hit shots. Darren stepped up and got us going with those two threes to start the third quarter.”
Triton, which beat the Bruins 39-33 last season, improves to 3-3. The Trojans have lost on the road to a trio of Class 3-A powers in Plymouth, NorthWood and Mishawaka Marian. They dropped out of the Class 1-A top 10 in this week’s poll.
“I didn’t know that and I really don’t worry about that,” said Groves of the poll. “We’re just trying to get better as a basketball team. We know our schedule is going to help us and have us prepared in the long run.”
Tanner Shepherd netted 17 points to go with seven rebounds and Harrell finished with seven points for Triton. Seth Glingle had a team-high four steals for the Trojans, who had 19 as a team. Seven different players had at least one steal for Triton.
Senior Caleb Morris led Bethany, who falls to 1-5, with 15 points before fouling out.
Triton won the junior varsity contest by a 32-24 final. Bryce Wanemacher scored 12 points and Mason Yeo 10 for the Trojans. Joel Gerig led the Bruins with 10 points.
Triton hosts New Prairie in a Northern State Conference game Friday night and then entertains Warsaw on Dec. 18. Bethany plays South Bend Trinity Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the first round of its own tournament.