BOURBON – Hoosier Hysteria arrived a little early Tuesday night at Triton High School.
Clay Yeo made sure of that in dramatic postseason-like fashion for his Triton boys basketball team.
Yeo, who was brilliant all game long, saved his best for last with a clutch game winner just before the final horn to lift the host Trojans past Warsaw 49-47 in a prep thriller.
The senior star poured in 33 points, but none bigger than his final three on a trey from the right wing with about a second left to play in the back-and-forth tussle.
The final shot, Yeo’s third 3-pointer at the end of a quarter in the contest, came after the Trojans called a timeout with 13.1 seconds to play after holding the ball for 45 seconds. Warsaw had taken a 47-46 lead with 50 seconds left on a jumper in the lane by Jordan Stookey.
The final play saw Yeo get the ball, give it up to a teammate while losing his balance and nearly traveling, and then get it right back to launch his heroic final shot.
“It was one of those nights when the ball is going in,” said Yeo of his final shot, which he hit while fading away. “I was just really excited when it went in. It’s one of those moments that you don’t know what to think.
“It’s always the case that you want to beat the bigger 4-A schools when you play them being a 1-A school. This is a nice win. I have confidence in my self in those situations and I also trust my teammates. They got me the ball and set the screen and I give them a lot of credit. I just want to make the shot when given the opportunity like tonight and pay them back.”
It was a memorable finish to a game which featured Warsaw’s first trip to Triton since the 1990 sectional. The Tigers, entering play Tuesday night, had won 30 of the previous 34 meetings versus the Trojans. Warsaw’s last loss to the Trojans was in the 1988 sectional.
But on this night, there was simply too much Yeo in the David versus Goliath battle of the very successful Class 1-A Trojans versus the tradition-rich Class 4-A Tigers. The versatile 6-6 guard, who has signed with Valparaiso University, was unstoppable. He finished 13-of-19 from the field, including 3-of-7 from distance, and 4-of-4 from the line. Yeo scored 20 first-half points to keep his team close at 26-24.
“My job is a lot easier having a player like Clay,” said Triton coach Jason Groves. “You give him the ball and he will make something happen. He wanted the ball in his hands. He said coach give me the ball in that final timeout and I told him he didn’t have to worry about that.
“He just made a great play at the end. He’s done that before. He has confidence and we’re confident in him. The one area he’s developed tremendously over his career here with work has been his 3-point shooting. The thing too is that this team is unselfish. They know who our best player is.”
Warsaw coach Doug Ogle credited Yeo, but also lamented two areas that proved costly to his squad.
“Yeo was outstanding and made a very difficult shot at the end,” said Ogle. “I don’t know if we can guard him any better than we did on that last play. He hit a great shot.
“But, we shouldn’t have been in that position at the end. More than anything, rebounding was the difference in the game. They out rebounded us and that’s disappointing. Credit them. They were more physical and more determined.
“One of the last things I said to the team before the game was that rebounding would be key. They outcompeted us. The other thing is that in the second half we had too many offensive possessions where we tried to force things. We were not patient enough and they took advantage of it.”
Triton, despite being smaller physically, out rebounded the Tigers 26-14 including 7-3 on the offensive glass. The host also hit 9-of-12 free throws to just 2-of-4 for Warsaw to help offset 17 turnovers to just nine for the Tigers.
Yeo, who should be a lock for a spot on the Indiana All-Star team, drained 3-pointers at the end of the first, second and fourth quarters. He scored 11 points in the opening period as the Trojans led 13-11. He had eight of his team’s nine baskets at halftime as Warsaw led 26-24. Jared Bloom, who led the Tigers with 22 points, canned 11 in the opening half.
“I thought we defended him pretty well,” said Ogle of trying to slow Yeo. “We wanted to have a crowd around him. It’s tough when he can shoot over the top of you like he does.
Our goal was to keep him and Shepherd (Tanner Shepherd) to 33 points combined. They scored 37, so we almost did that.”
The biggest lead for either team in the closely-contested affair was six points by Warsaw at 34-28 in the third period on a Bloom trey. The Tigers led 40-35 early in the final quarter on a jumper by John Swanson. Triton rallied to take a 44-42 lead with 2:19 left on a clutch 3-pointer from the baseline by Darren Harrell, his only basket of the game, off a great pass from Yeo as he was double teamed.
The final two minutes saw both teams make big plays. Bloom, who was tough for the Tigers, hit a triple from the top of the key to give Warsaw a 45-44 lead with 1:54 to play. Yeo then hit a shot in the lane to make it 46-45 Triton with 1:37 left. Warsaw then turned the ball over before Yeo was whistled for an offensive foul while hitting a driving shot with 1:06 to play. After a Warsaw timeout, Stookey hit his jumper in the lane to give the Tigers a 47-46 advantage to set the stage for Yeo’s heroics.
Triton shot a blistering 18-of-32 from the field in the win, while Warsaw finished 20-of-41. Swanson scored 11 points and Stookey seven for the Tigers, who beat Triton 46-41 last season.
Yeo also had five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Seth Glingle had four points and five rebounds and Tanner Shepherd for points for the Trojans.
Triton improves to 5-3 with its third straight win, while Warsaw sees its two-game win streak snapped to drop to 3-4.
Warsaw won the junior varsity contest 50-33. Cameron Hoskins scored 12 points and Jonny Hollar nine to lead a balanced offense for the Tigers. Skyler Reichert had 16 points and Jordan Anderson 10 to pace Triton.
Warsaw hosts Fort Wayne South Thursday. Triton is off until hosting Elkhart Christian Jan. 3.