INDIANAPOLIS – Clay Yeo put his Triton boys basketball team on his slim shoulders and led a furious charge in the final quarter of his prep career Saturday.
Unfortunately for Yeo and the Trojans, Borden never flinched.
The Braves cooly drained huge treys and even bigger free throws in the fourth quarter to hold off the Trojans 55-50 in the Class 1-A state title game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Senior Jalen McCoy scored 15 points, including a huge eight in a 27-point fourth quarter, to pace No. 10 Borden to its first-ever state title in any team sport. Senior Michael Lynch scored 13 points, senior Cody Bachman 10 and senior Billy Kirchgessner nine for the champions, who finish at 24-3.
Yeo poured in 19 of his game-high 26 points in the final frame as the No. 10 Trojans exploded for 31 points. Junior Tanner Shepherd added 10 points for Triton, which finishes at 20-6.
Borden, which led 31-19 early in the final period, hit four straight huge triples to hold off Yeo and the Trojans down the stretch. The Braves, who also hit 11-15 free throws in the final period, finished 8-14 from beyond the arc. Triton was just 4-17 on 3-point tries.
The Trojans, who trailed 18-9 at halftime, had to go to an aggressive 1-3-1 zone in an effort to rally. The defense left Borden shooters free in the final period and the cool Braves got a pair of threes from McCoy and one each from Kirchgessner and Josh Vollstedt.
“Give credit to them,” said Triton coach Jason Groves of the Braves. “They hit big shots when they needed to. That was plan B for us to go to the 1-3-1. We had to get aggressive and force the tempo to get back in the game.
“What hurt us was the hole we got in early. We didn’t get off to a good start and that’s the one thing I did not want to happen. When they got the lead, they are tough to play against. They spread things out and that made it tough on us.
“I was proud of the way we fought back. I really liked our effort at the end. We got aggressive and attacked the basket. It just seemed like every time we got right there, they hit a big shot. Give them all the credit for that.”
The Trojans used an 11-3 run in the final period to pull within 35-32 with 5:10 to play. The Braves next three baskets were all treys as McCoy, Kirchgessner and Vollstedt all ripped open 3-pointers to spark a 9-4 run to make it 44-36.
Triton refused to fold as Yeo continued to dominate at the offensive end. The versatile 6-6 guard scored his team’s next 11 points as the Trojans rallied within 50-47 on a pair of Yeo free throws with 1:18 left.
Borden showed its mettle in the final minute. Kirchgessner came up with a huge loose ball after a wild scramble off a Borden missed shot. He calmly hit two free throws after being fouled on the play with 54.1 seconds left to make it 52-47. Yeo was then forced into a turnover with 42 seconds to play and Bachman hit a pair of free throws with 33.1 seconds left to make it 54-47 to seal the win.
“I just got more aggressive and tried to create and make plays for us,” said Yeo of his amazing fourth-quarter performance, which included two threes of his own and 5-5 free throws. “Credit them. Those threes they hit were incredibly deflating.”
Borden used an 8-2 run in the opening period to lead 13-7 after the first quarter. The second stanza saw Borden outscore the Trojans 5-2, with Yeo’s basket at the 5:57 mark Triton’s only points of the period.
The Trojans trailed 18-9 at halftime as they shot just 4-16 in the opening half. Borden hit 8-21 in the first half with Lynch scoring six points.
“Credit their defense in the first half,” said Yeo, who was 1-6 from the field in the opening half. “They knew where I was at all times and did a very good job defensively.”
Groves, taking his fourth team to the State Finals in the last six years, credited Borden.
“It looked like it was our first time here and not them in that first half,” said Groves, who guided the Trojans to a state runner-up finish also in 2011. “Shooting has not been one of our strengths this year and they just stifled us.”
Borden, which entered the final shooting 35 percent from 3-point range on the season, simply did not wilt under the pressure of the state’s biggest stage.
“I’m not sure we’ve hit eight threes in a game,” said Borden coach Doc Nash. “Our guys are tough enough to make shots in big time situations and that’s what they did today. Shooters shoot and we had to attack them. This is an amazing group and they deserve this moment.
“We had a great team effort to hold them to nine points in the first half. Our defensive philosophy is to have someone other than the other team’s best player beat us and to give up threes. We were not going to change that today.
“Yeo is a legitimate Division I player and the best we’ve played against. That kid is good. We knew they were going to keep going to him in that last quarter. We just did our best to counter him.”
Triton finished just 18-43 overall from the field, while Borden shot 18-39. The Trojans had eight turnovers to just six for the Braves.
Seth Glingle and Joey Corder each had four points and Cody Shively and Trenton Cooper three each for Triton. Corder had seven rebounds and Yeo six as Triton had a 28-23 edge on the glass.
The Trojans lose five seniors in Yeo, Glingle, Cooper, Bryson Mosier and Drew Mosson.