BREMEN — Triton’s boys and girls basketball teams both lost their Bi-County Tournament openers to host Bremen Tuesday night. Both games went down to the wire and there were other similarities between the two contests, too, but Triton’s two head coaches drew different conclusions from the narrow losses, a 38-32 decision in the girls contest and a 47-45 affair in the nightcap.
LADY LIONS 38, LADY TROJANS 32
Bremen avenged an earlier 23-20 loss to Triton in another nip-tuck contest all the way back on Nov. 14 in Bourbon in the girls contest at the TCU Bi-County Girls Tournament. Ask Triton coach Adam Heckaman the difference between the two games, and the answer is pretty simple: The last time the Lady Trojans (9-11) matched up with the Lions (10-9), they were still playing without junior guard Erin Coffel. At full strength in their rematch Tuesday, Coffel’s 11 points, four assists and three steals helped make the difference in the close loss.
“One of the big differences is that Erin Coffel didn’t play in that game. She’s a heck of a player, and she makes a lot of things happen for them,” explained Heckaman, who wasn’t disappointed in his team’s effort even if the outcome didn’t go Triton’s way.
“I just told them there’s nothing to hang their heads about. We did what we needed to do. Maybe a couple turnovers that we’d like to have back at inopportune times, a couple defensive rotations in the first half, but for the most part we executed our game plan. We just didn’t a couple shots that we needed to. That’s going to happen, but we’ve got to keep our heads up going forward because we’re playing our best ball right now.”
Coffel’s presence on the floor also helped clear some space for junior forward Karlee Feldman, and the athletic 6’1” frontcourter made hay with 13 points and eight rebounds despite a yeoman’s effort by the Triton defense.
“Those have been our two offensive leaders all year,” said Bremen coach Alex Robinson. “The first time we played Triton we didn’t have Coffel so they were doubling and tripling Feldman every time she had the ball so she was definitely expecting that kind of game, and we knew we couldn’t just sit her inside as much as we do sometimes because they pack in with that zone.”
“However we could get those two in positions to kind of penetrate the zone a little bit, that’s what we were trying to do,” he continued. “I thought we got some good looks once we got Coffel inside. She was able to facilitate from there, and then things opened up for her outside as well. Feldman is just steady. She’s there to make a play. She’s been so consistent this year. Thirteen points against Triton is bout what we expect. Just like always at the end of the game, she’s going to step up for us.”
But while Coffel’s presence Tuesday helped Bremen get over the top, an absence in the Trojans lineup late in the game also helped supply the difference.
With Triton trailing just Triton trailing just 28-27 early in the fourth period, sophomore starter Whytnie Miller went down battling Feldman for an offensive rebound and left the floor clutching her elbow at the 6:12 stop of the fourth. Miller sat out a full 4:49 of the quarter before returning following a timeout with only 1:30 to go. Junior Delanie Groves was solid playing in Miller’s stead, but the latter’s team-high 12 points and four steals — all earned through the first three frames Tuesday — were missed during the fourth quarter as Bremen outscored its guests 11-5. The Trojans were still well within a point of their hosts when Miller returned, but Kaelyn Shively’s big 3-pointer from the corner on a Coffel assist with 1:05 to go pushed the home team out to a 36-32 lead.
“It wasn’t great timing by any means. She kind of got hurt there, and I think she’s probably going to be pretty sore tomorrow,” said Heckaman of Miller’s injury. “We erred on the side of caution to make sure she was OK and have her work it out a little bit. Delanie (Groves) did a good job of stepping in and taking open shots, which she needed to do at that point, which allowed Hannah (Wanemacher) to get in and get some rebounds and actually get some of her points that way. But we’re just not quite the same defensively without her out there. Delanie works hard, but she just doesn’t quite have that strength that Whytnie has and that length. That did hurt us.”
After Shively’s corner triple, she grabbed a steal on the other end, and her inbounds lob over Chelsea Johnson to Feldman forced a foul. Feldman split her free throws to push the Lions’ advantage to 37-32 with only 27.6 seconds remaining and pretty much sealed the win.
“That was a huge stretch for her,” said Robinson of Shively’s late fourth period heroics. “She’s done that kind of thing for us all year. You look back at plays like that, and that really decided the game.”
While Miller scored 12 for Triton, the Trojans got 11 from Hannah Wanemacher, as Bremen’s box-and-one held the senior guard to 4-of-10 shooting and didn’t give her a single trip to the line Tuesday. Four of Wanemacher’s points came in the fourth period off a pair of offensive rebounds and putbacks.
“We started off just trying to play our normal defense to see how that went, and she hit an early 3. You don’t want to let her get going so if she got one early then for me that was enough as far as open looks so we put (Haylie) Rodriguez on her, who is a girl who can run around all day,” said Robinson of Wanemacher. “I thought she did a really good job of not letting her get easy looks. They were running her off screens and everything, so it was a team effort. She’s a player that can easily go off for 20 points if she gets a few open looks.”
“She worked her tail end off. It’s something we talked about since last Thursday. She worked hard the whole game, and because she worked hard it forced them to overplay with their box a couple times, and we got I don’t know how many open looks to Nikki (Sechrist) inside there,” said Heckaman. “We did what we needed to against it, and we and other kids step up and score — Whytnie and Nikki stepping in there. I think we just fell just a couple open looks short of being able to kind of finish that off, but you’ve got to tip your hat to Bremen. They knocked down the free throws that they needed to and got the possessions they needed.”
Bremen advances to play LaVille in the semifinals Thursday at LaVille after the Lancers defeated Culver Community 41-9 in Lakeville Tuesday night. The Trojans slip into the consolation bracket, where they’ll play Culver at 8 p.m. Thursday in the auxiliary gym at LaVille.
“By far we’re playing our best basketball, and they realize that and they understand and are supportive of each other,” Heckaman said. “We’ve got a lot more things going forward that we’re working towards with conference still kind of hanging in the balance. Sectional is going to be relatively even with OD being the favorites so we have things going forward that we’re looking forward to.”
LIONS 47, TROJANS 45
Bremen coach Jerry Smith has a lot of respect for Triton boss Jason Groves, and he understands just what the Trojans were trying to do when they started fouling to stretch the clock with around a minute and a half still left to play in the two team’s TCU Bi-County Boys Tournament game Tuesday. After all, the Lions entered the game converting only about 50 percent of their free throws.
But Bremen’s players came through in the clutch at tournament time, knocking down 10 of 14 free throws in the decisive final period, including 6 of 7 by junior guard Ryan Caldwell.
“That’s stepping up in crunch time. Before this game, we’re probably as a team 50-some percent so Triton knew that — you saw them start fouling us early and run their foulers in then run their offense in. We knew it was coming,” explained Smith.
“If you would’ve told me before the game this one was going to come down to free throws, I’d be praying pretty hard because we hadn’t stepped up and done it, but to my kids’ credit they stepped up there and just knocked them down.”
With the two teams knotted at 27-all after three quarters, those 10 points at the foul line helped make the difference in a fourth period that saw a combined 38 points by the Trojans (4-6) and the Lions (4-8), nearly as many as the previous three frames combined.
A 9-0 Bremen start to the final stanza — part of a larger 10-0 run by the Lions and the game’s biggest unanswered spurt — gave the Lions the biggest lead of the night at 36-27 with just 4:37 remaining after 12 lead changes and nine ties in Bremen. The Trojans whittled it back down to within a possession at 45-42 with Ross Johnson’s free throws with just 16.4 ticks on the clock, but the visitors ran out of time and timeouts as the Lions closed it out at the charity stripe.
“It’s a great win for us,” said Smith. “Triton is a good program. Coach Groves, he gets the most out of his kids, and you’ve got to be ready for everything and anything because he’ll throw anything at you. Great job for them. Good luck for the rest. We’ll see them again at the end of the year, but we’re moving on and that’s what you want to do in a tournament — take the next step.”
“You’ve got to give them credit for knocking down free throws. That’s part of the game,” said Groves. “You’ve got to hit free throws to win. You’ve got to score to win, and that’s one thing we’re struggling to do besides Ross.
“We have a long way to go. We’re just not very good right now.”
Johnson poured in a game-high 23 points for Triton to go with four rebounds and four steals, but he wasn’t able to keep pace with Bremen’s big three of Caldwell, Justin Zumbrun and Brooks Feldman Tuesday. While Caldwell finished with 10, Zumbrun scored 12, and Feldman tallied a team-high 13 points. The Trojans struggled to find production behind Johnson, meanwhile. Dylan Helsey scored seven, but three of those points came in the opening period and he disappeared through the second quarter.
“I like it that we don’t have one go-to guy,” Smith said.
“I’ve got five, six guys that may have a double-digit night, so no team can focus on one player. That’s what I like. But then we have to have confidence in all those guys when they come out there.”
“We tried to make a concerted effort to get the ball inside this game, and we just got away from it,” said Groves. “Our guards don’t handle the pressure to be able to get the ball inside, and it’s just frustrating that we can’t get it in there.”
In what has become a frustrating pattern for Groves and the Trojans, Triton surrendered 16 turnovers to Bremen’s 10 Tuesday night. The Lions parlayed those extra possessions into 14 points off turnovers, and seven giveaways in the fourth period alone were particularly problematic.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball. That’s been our Achilles heel all year long,” said Groves. “We had 16 again tonight. It’s been about 15 and above about every game. It kills you when you can’t take care of the ball. We had opportunities — we got some steals, got some things and then we’d just turn the ball over. I’m not sure why that is. We’ve just got to do a better job taking care of it.”
The Lions advance to play LaVille in the boys semifinals Friday night at LaVille after the Lancers downed Culver Community 69-59 Tuesday. Also Friday night, Triton will get a second look at the Cavaliers within the span of a week in the late consolation game at the auxiliary gym in Lakeville, scheduled for approximately 8 p.m. The Trojans suffered a 42-33 loss to the Cavs during Hoosier North Athletic Conference play just last Friday night in Culver, and Groves is hoping to see a turnaround in the rematch.
“Just keep grinding. Keep getting better offensively. Keep getting better defensively. You’ve got to take care of the ball,” he said of his post-game message to his player Tuesday. “You know the saying — basketball is a simple sport. You’ve got to do the simple things to win, and right now we’re not doing any of them.”