CULVER — Culver threw everything it possibly could at Triton, but the Trojans managed to dodge the kitchen sink en route to a 44-32 win in the first semi-final of the Culver Boys Basketball Sectional.
Choosing to navigate the final 6:40 of the third quarter without star Clay Yeo, who picked up his third foul after two quick whistles to open the second half, Triton showed it is more than just the talented forward. Using a combination of alignments, Trojan head coach Jason Groves drew up the magic formula to hold Cavalier scoring machine Trent Elliott under wraps while milking precious time off the clock.
“The guys that came in really did a nice job,” Groves said. “Tanner stepped up and make a couple buckets. They did a decent job maintaining until we get our guys back in. Obviously, we are a different team without Clay in there, that definitely hurts. So I thought our kids did a nice job weathering that storm, playing through it and getting to the fourth quarter.”
Elliott finished just three of 14 from the floor and 13 points overall, never really getting going offensively, missing seven of his first eight shot attempts. The job Yeo did in the first half faceguarding Elliott, and the combo of looks in the third quarter, may have been the difference in the game.
“Their team picked up their defensive intensity when Clay went out,” began Culver head coach Kyle Elliott. “He is a good player. But obviously, it’s a team defense that they have. That was just one guy that they lost defensively.
“Our execution didn’t (pick up). In that stretch, we had two turnovers, maybe three. That was huge, and disappointing to say the least at that juncture of the game. Our kids battled, but a very good Triton team won tonight. You have to play close to a perfect game to beat them, especially in the tournament. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t put it all together tonight.”
Yeo, on the other hand, stepped up with the game in the balance in the fourth quarter. After Culver (13-9) cut the Triton lead to 28-24 in the fourth quarter, Yeo converted an and-one and worked his way to the free throw line on several aggressive moves to the basket. Yeo finished 10-13 from the line and 16 points overall, tossing in eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“We knew it was going to be a grind out, possession basketball game,” said Groves of the rivalry between the two teams. Culver beat Triton, 46-42, in Bourbon on Jan. 11. “Last time, I thought our kids panicked a little bit. It’s late in the fourth and we’re down a point.
“For the most part, especially defensively, we did. Offensively, I don’t think we executed very well. But maybe nerves had a little to do with that.”
While not glaring on the stat sheet, Skyler Reichert and Joey Corder hit huge threes, the two going back-to-back in the first quarter and Reichert hitting a dart in the second quarter to silence a small Culver run. Corder ended the night with seven points, Reichert six points and five boards.
Seth Glingle also hit a huge bucket at the 3:16 mark of the fourth quarter on a pretty pick and roll to give Triton a 35-26 lead. Culver would cut the lead to seven late after Micah Budzinski, who finished with eight points and six boards, dropped a pair of free throws. But the Trojans would close with the final five points to advance to Saturday night’s Culver Sectional championship, which tips at 6:30 p.m.
Triton (16-5) will take on Michigan City Marquette (18-5), which beat Westville, 81-46, in Friday’s second semi-final.
“Marquette is just super athletic, super skilled and has to be one of the most individually talented teams in the state,” Groves said.