BOURBON — So much for the hype.
Backyard rivals Tippecanoe Valley and Triton met Friday night at the Trojan Trench in what many hoped to be a knock-down-drag-out thriller to satisfy the hoops craving before sectionals. But, as it turned out, only one team was doing the knocking down and had no problem dragging its rival out of the gym.
Triton played excellent on both ends of the court to hand the Vikings a 56-35 defeat in the annual matchup. It was the seventh win in a row for the Trojans and the seventh meeting in a row between these two rivals where the home team emerged victorious.
“It’s huge,” Triton coach Jason Groves said of the impact for his team to win this year’s rivalry. “You look at this rivalry the last, I don’t know how many year, but it seems like the home team wins just about every year. It’s a great game, to play Valley. That’s what we talked to them about before the game. A coach like coach Patrick, he’s a legendary coach, and the kids get to play against him.
“This is special. This is one of the most enjoyable games that I get coach in.We want the guy to just go out there, enjoy it and have fun. I felt that tonight. They just played loose and relaxed. There was no pressure. It’s a great rivalry, a great game to prepare you for sectional.”
Triton was bringing the energy all night, and it all started with a boost from Beau Hepler. The sophomore came out ready to stick it to the Vikings as he would go on to hit three triples in the first quarter. The Trojans only hit four total on the night, Hepler was front-loading his efforts and it worked. The shooting prowess from Hepler helped to fuel a 10-0 in the opening quarter. Triton led 17-7 after one. Hepler tied with Grant Johnson to lead all scorers on the night with 14 points.
Valley was just unable to get things going offensively and it was an issue from start to finish. The Vikings went the first 6:30 of the second quarter before getting a basket. Thankfully they were able to keep things close by ending the half on a 7-0 run, capped by a buzzer-beating lay-in from Alec Craig, and trailed just 24-14 at the break. Craig finished his night with eight points.
“They just played harder than we played,” admitted Valley head coach Bill Patrick. “They were ready to play and we weren’t. Defense, obviously, just wasn’t that good the first half. We couldn’t score, 15-50 is what we had. We missed a lot of layups. You’re not going to win many games when you shoot 30 percent at the high school level. We didn’t get good shots. They just outplayed us. There isn’t any other way to put it.”
Patrick went on to mention a solid offensive night for Tanner Trippiedi, and also commented on team’s lack of ability to get him more looks. Trippiedi led Valley with 13 points.
The Trojans really opened things up in the third and were cruising midway through the fourth quarter. Senior Zac Pitney, No. 24 in the program, put the Trojans up 24 on their rival, 47-23, with two free throws late in the game. That was the largest lead at the time, though Triton would later go up by 25 points. Pitney tallied 13 on the night.
“Usually this is our senior night, but a change in the schedule moved that to next week, we just wanted to come out and get a hot start,” Pitney stated. “I think Beau is the one that got us going. He came out and dropped three threes right away. He was feeling it tonight.
“We knew Valley was a tough team, coming out and playing a tough team this way gives us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
Triton (15-5) hosts Bremen Tuesday night. Valley (9-13) will host Wawasee next Friday.
Valley won the JV game 40-37. Trippiedi led the JV Vikings with 12 points. Tye Orsund led all scorers with 17 points for Triton.
During halftime Triton also honored its 2017 Hall of Fame class. This year’s inductees were former athletic director Mike Byron, former coach Bob Burris, 1992 graduate Sharon Patterson Doan and 1965 graduate Max Anders.