BOURBON — Packed gyms, screaming students, a Hall of Fame coach and humble players.
Those are the things that make Indiana high school hoops so special and Bourbon had a little bit of them all on Friday night. Tippecanoe Valley traveled to the Trojan Trench to face Triton in a regular season matchup that had the feel of a sectional final. The Trojans carried on that energy to outlast the Vikings on senior night, 65-59.
After executing a great game plan in the first, the Vikings were holding onto a 22-14 lead midway through the second quarter. Triton coach Jason Groves called a timeout to settle his team down, and it just so happened to be the turning point in the game. After Groves’ timeout, the Trojans went on an 18-5 run to close the half with a 32-27 lead. Groves talked about the timeout and what message he gave the team at that point.
“Part of the reason we were trailing was because of turnovers and defensively we were doing some silly things I thought. So, we called a timeout to remind them what we wanted done. We kept saying ‘Don’t lose focus, don’t lose focus’,” Groves stated.
One player who definitely took the message was Clay Yeo. The senior scored 11 points in the second quarter, which gave him 15 in the half. Yeo gave his team the spark it needed going into the locker room. But where did the second quarter performance come from? Valley seemed to have all the answers when it came to Yeo and then suddenly let the senior get on a role and control the game.
“The first quarter I came out kind of passive,” Yeo said. “(Nick) Kindig was guarding me and he is pretty big. I was trying to shoot over top of him and he kept contesting it so I had to start going inside. That’s all I did, went inside and tried to get to the free throw line.”
Yeo finished the night leading all scorers with 27 points.
The five-point deficit at halftime would be the closest that Valley would get to Triton for the remainder of the game as the Vikings had another player to deal with in the second half – Trojan junior Tanner Shepherd. After Yeo closed his half with big numbers, it was Shepherd that broke out to pick up the slack. Shepherd scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half. The effort was perhaps most noticed by his teammate, Yeo.
“Oh, that is so helpful,” Yeo stated. “For him, this is his old school so it’s kind of nice for him to come out here and play very well. When you have a player like that to help take pressure off of you, it opens you up for open shots because they start keying on him because he is playing so well. It’s just nice to see him start playing the way he wants to.”
Shepherd and Yeo continued to give the Valley defense fits all night as the Trojans would extend the lead to as much as 13 at one point in the third quarter. Despite Valley getting three scorers into double-digits, with Tanner Andrews leading the way with 15 points, the visiting squad could just not pull back into the game. The Vikings shot 50 percent for the game and even won the turnover battle but one telling stat line was rebounds. Valley was outrebounded 30-20 by the Trojans.
Following the game Patrick was asked about the rebounding differential and the 18-5 run that Triton had before half.
“We just didn’t play hard. We got that eight-point lead and then we just relaxed and didn’t think we had to play hard. That really hurt us,” Patrick stated. “We played well for a quarter and a half to start the game then we started to get hurt on the boards. We got out rebounded. We did not rebound.”
The Vikings fall to 16-3 on the year and will look to end the regular season with some momentum as they host a struggling Wawasee squad next weekend in Akron. Tip-off is set for 7:45 p.m.
As for Triton (14-5) do not expect a hangover game from the team’s big win on Friday. The Trojans still have a rather large fish to fry. With a win next Friday at Knox (2-16), Triton will clinch at least a share of the Northern State Conference title for the fourth time in as many years.
Shepherd was asked about next week’s game and what a win would mean for the team.
“Oh, we are really fired up. We really wanted to win conference this year and the loss to Culver kind of hurt, but we took it as motivation to get better and play better as a team. But, to win next Friday will be great.”
The Trojans and Redskins tip-off at 8:00 p.m. in Knox.