LAKEVILLE — After a 1-of-5 start from 3-point range in the first half, Triton head coach Adam Heckaman had a simple message for his shooters at halftime Wednesday: Keep shooting.
Those shots eventually began falling for the Lady Trojans, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With host LaVille trailing by just four points, Delanie Groves knocked down a pair of 3s sandwiched around a Lexia Hostrawser triple, and Triton used a 16-2 run to hold off its hosts, 38-22, in the two teams’ Hoosier North Athletic Conference-opener.
“I told Lexia Hostrawser — she struggled shooting the ball in the first half — but I told her at halftime ‘You’ve got to keep shooting the ball. Delanie keep shooting it. You don’t make it if you don’t shoot it up there,’” Heckaman explained. “We got good looks. They stepped up with some confidence and knocked them down, and I think they felt a little more comfortable tonight because defensively we were holding them down.”
Defense was indeed key to Wednesday’s win. The Trojans (2-8, 1-0 HNAC) collected nine steals and flustered the Lancers (3-5, 0-1 HNAC) into 16 turnovers, but more importantly, Triton was able to keep the ball out of the paint for much of the night, where LaVille bigs Julia Hall and Trynitie Cox were waiting.
Hall finished with a game-high 11 points, including five during LaVille’s third quarter comeback bid, while Cox was limited to a single bucket. That interior defense began in the backcourt, though, as Triton’s guards pressured LaVille ball-handlers out of the zone to keep them from looking inside. The Trojans also out-efforted the Lancers on the boards as LaVille collected just seven rebounds for only four second-chance points.
“She uses her size well down there, and she finishes,” said Heckaman of Hall. “I thought we did a really good job throughout the game keeping them out of the paint because that’s what we talked about is where they score more of their points at — offensive rebounds, shots in the paint for Cox and Hall. I thought we did a pretty good job.
“I thought our guards did a good job of pressuring up on the perimeter so it was hard for them to see them.”
Triton opened the night on a 9-2 run and put LaVille down by double digits with nine straight points midway through the second period. LaVille whittled that lead over a 9-4 third period, and Hall’s shot from the lane early in the fourth cut the Lancers’ deficit back to four before Groves’ wing triple at the 6:07 stop of the clock triggered an outburst of 12 unanswered points to give the Trojans some breathing room at 34-20.
“The finish was kind of like the finish of the first half, to be honest. They cut it to nine, seven in the first half, and we went on a 9-0 run to finish the first half and built that lead back up,” recalled Heckaman. “We came out a little sluggish in the third quarter and let them back in it, and then we settled down, found open shots, and we had kids step up and make some shots tonight. It was nice to see.”
Groves finished with a team-high 10 points to go with four assists, while Taren Yates gave her team seven points off the bench, and Alyxa Viers and Jaela Faulkner each finished with five points as Triton opened HNAC play at 1-0.
“It’s nice to get off to a 1-0 start, especially because we only won one game coming into this,” Heckaman said. “We’ve had games like that where we know hopefully what we’ve done before, the teams we played will prepare us a little bit for this. There are some really good teams in the conference this year. Knox, North Judson, Winamac, are all going to be pretty competitive up there at the top, and we’re hoping we can kind of slide into our later games with those teams with a chance and see what happens from there.”
Meanwhile Wednesday, Triton’s JV earned a convincing 38-19 win over its LaVille counterparts.
Yates scored 11, and Jaelyn Bules scored 10 for the JV Trojans, while LaVille’s JV was paced by five points apiece from Allison Giles and Allison Medors.
Triton plays another HNAC game at Knox Saturday at 4 p.m.