HAMLET – “To be, or not to be?”
That was the question that the Triton girls basketball team had to answer Friday night in postseason play.
The young ladies from Bourbon made a statement in their sectional semifinal. Triton held off a scrappy Culver team 48-44 to advance to the Class 1-A sectional championship Saturday night.
The No. 9 Trojans, now 17-5, will face No. 2 and host Oregon-Davis in the sectional title tilt at 7 p.m. ET. The Bobcats, who are 20-3, beat Argos 75-42 in the second semifinal contest Friday night.
OD defeated Triton 80-36 in the title game of the Bi-County Tournament on Jan. 19 and also topped the Trojans 65-55 in Bourbon on Jan. 2.
Though the victory Friday night was certainly rewarding, it was far from easy to claim. Triton, which defeated Culver 52-37 in Bourbon on Jan. 11 en route to the Northern State Conference championship, was given all it could handle by Kayla Shaffer and the Cavaliers from start to finish.
The two teams played to a draw after one quarter, 11-11. The second quarter belonged to Shaffer and the Cavaliers. Shaffer, a 5-10 junior, was a force for her team all night. The Lady Trojans had a tough time finding an answer for her on either side of the ball as she would tally 11 points and four steals in the first half alone.
Shaffer made the most significant play for either team in the first half when she stole a Triton in-bounds pass attempt with just under a minute to play in the second quarter. The junior went coast-to-coast with the stolen ball and dropped in an uncontested layup to swing momentum clearly in Culver’s favor before half. The Lady Cavaliers took a 21-16 lead into the locker room. Shaffer finished her night with 17 points and six steals.
After halftime momentum shifted back towards Triton, thanks in part to Kylie Mason. The Lady Trojan sophomore hit back-to-back threes to tie the game at 22 with just under six minutes to play in the third period. She tallied eight points total in the quarter as well as adding two steals. Mason’s effort would help to fuel a 15 point third quarter surge from Triton as they would take a slim 31-29 lead into the final quarter. Mason finished her night with 12 points and four steals.
The fourth quarter started as a defensive struggle as several turnovers from both teams prevented any scoring until the six minute mark. That’s when Triton’s Taylor Hatfield laid in a two-point bucket to extend her team’s lead. That would be the start of seven straight points from the junior guard. The seven point run would be the highlight of a solid 16 point effort on the night from Hatfield.
The Lady Cavaliers refused to let Triton pull too far ahead as they hit four straight free throws to pull within five. But Culver failed to hit shots late when it needed them most and was forced to send Triton to the line. The Lady Trojans finished the night strong as they would hit 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. Six of those came from reliable senior Shana Anderson.
While the senior did not have any long run of points to start a quarter she was the rock for Triton all night long. Anderson went 8-8 from the charity stripe, grabbed six boards, hit two shots from beyond the arc and finished the night leading all scorers with 18 points. Anderson scored 13 of her points in the second half when her team needed them the most. The senior’s free throws helped close out the game in the final minutes to secure a shot at a sectional title tomorrow night.
Following the game Triton coach Adam Heckaman talked about his team’s gritty performance.
“The execution throughout the game was there,” said Heckaman. “We kept them from getting a lot of shots. Early on we made some bad decisions. In the second half we let our defense force turnovers which led us to some easy buckets on the other end. We got that lead and then they had to rush which helped our defense. Tonight that was something we had to rely on because the shots just were not falling.”
“We knew coming in that we had to make the right plays down the stretch. We like our offense and we like to shoot. That’s the way we play.”
Oregon-Davis will be shooting for its fifth sectional title in the past six seasons Saturday night. Triton claimed the other sectional championship in 2011.