INDIANAPOLIS – The Triton boys basketball team came a long, long way this season.
The Trojans, despite falling just short of their coveted destination, walked out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with heads held high on Saturday.
With very good reason too.
No. 10 Triton earned its second Class 1-A state runner-up finish in the last three years after a 55-50 loss to No. 10 Borden in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The game marked the end of the brilliant prep career for Triton star Clay Yeo. The 6-6 guard made sure to go out in record-setting fashion despite the loss. Yeo poured in 19 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead a furious final rally.
Yeo’s 26 points give him 1,992 for his illustrious high school career in Bourbon. That total is the highest ever in Marshall County boys basketball history as he passed former Plymouth star Kyle Benge’s previous high water mark. Benge, who graduated in 2005, scored 1,979 points.
Yeo, a lock for the Indiana All-Star team and a Valparaiso University recruit, just missed becoming the 42nd player in state history to score 2,000 career points.
“Of my four years, this is probably been my most enjoyable one,” said Yeo, who had a game-high 19 points in 2011 when the Trojans lost to Indianapolis Metropolitan in the Class 1-A finale. “It was just extremely fun to be with these guys. We’re friends not only on the court, but off of it. It was a great ride we had.”
A great ride indeed.
The Trojans started their season at 2-3 with losses at Plymouth, at NorthWood and at Mishawaka Marian. Triton stood at 8-5 after a 50-48 loss to LaVille on Jan. 18 in the semifinals of the Bi-County Tournament before ripping off 12 straight wins to advance to the State Finals for the fourth time in the last six years.
Much of the credit for the turnaround has to go to Triton’s five seniors of Yeo, Seth Glingle, Bryson Mosier, Trenton Cooper and Drew Mosson as well as coach Jason Groves. Yeo and Glingle, who had four points and five rebounds Saturday, both were starters.
The gritty Trojans, their dream season over at 20-6, bought into a defensive first mentality that carried them all the way through a postseason that featured wins over three ranked opponents.
“It’s tough because our seniors have done such a great job this season,” said Groves, in his eighth season as Triton’s head coach. “Their work ethic, especially in the second half of our season, really got us to this point today. I’m extremely proud of all of them.”
Yeo, who was averaging 26 points-per-game, was held to just two points in the first half Saturday as the Trojans trailed 18-9 at intermission.
“They keyed on me and knew where I was all the time and give credit to their guys,” said Yeo honestly of the Borden defense in the first half. “They were very good defensively. Give their defense credit.”
Groves, who has seen more than his fair share of talented players pass through his school of 312 students, knows what a special one No. 5 was.
“It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to coach a player like Clay,” Groves said in his post game press conference Saturday. “The thing is that I’m going to miss him in every possible way, not just as a basketball player. He’s really matured the last four years.
“I’m not sure you can replace a guy like Clay and what he has meant to our program.”
Groves has led the Trojans to the State Finals four times in the last six years, including a state championship in 2008.
Yeo finished 9-18 from the field, including 2-7 from 3-point range in his final game in a Triton jersey. He was also 6-6 from the line and had six rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocked shots.
Yeo, who should be a complete lock to become Triton’s first boys basketball Indiana All-Star, left an impression on Borden coach Doc Nash. The Braves coach watched on helplessly Saturday as Yeo scored 11 straight Triton points in one stretch in the fourth quarter as the Trojans cut a once 12-point deficit all the way down to two at one point before Borden held on.
“The kid is good,” said Nash, understating the obvious about Yeo. “He’s the best we’ve played. Give him credit.”
Give credit to all the Trojans for another season to remember.