Slow start costs Triton 1st loss

ROCHESTER — Triton has rallied back for some slow starts lately defending its unbeaten run. On Wednesday, the Lady Trojans dug themselves a hole they couldn’t crawl out of.
An ailing Rochester squad overcame illness to jump out to a fast start, running up a 10-2 lead in the game’s first five and a half minutes, then held off visiting Triton down the stretch for a 36-33 victory to hand the Trojans their first loss of the season on the road.
“The last four games we’ve started slow and gotten ourselves down by nine or 10 before we started to play,” said Triton head coach Adam Heckaman. “The same thing tonight. We just didn’t get after it, not a lot of intensity to start with. Just throwing the ball around, letting them shoot layups, not getting to spots defensively. For some reason the last few games it seems like we’ve got to get down before we realize we better start playing. Then we do and we get back into it, but tonight it caught up with us. We got down to a good team, and they held onto the lead.”
The Zebras (6-2) worked efficiently against the Trojans’ 1-3-1 in the opening frame, going 5 for 6 from the floor to take an initial 10-2 lead before a 4-0 quarter-ending mini run by Triton (8-1) brought the score to 10-6 at the quarter break. Rochester went 8 for 13 from the field in the first half while holding the Trojans to 6-of-20 numbers from the floor with a combination of 2-3 in the halfcourt and a 2-1-2 press in the full court, and the Zebras owned a 20-13 lead at the break.
“This game plan was put together last night; everyone was sick,” said Rochester head coach Tony Stesiak. “(Breanne) Paulik missed school the last two days. Everyone was feeling terrible. We had a short bench, and we hadn’t played much zone. We’ve shown it in parts. We wanted to slow the game down and put in that 2-1-2 not really to get turnovers but just to kind of make them work. They haven’t seen it all year. Try to slow them down. We thought if the game was a little bit slower pace, methodical at the start, we could build our confidence and kind of save our legs because we knew it would be a tight one in the fourth, and we knew if we could save our legs at the end that would be huge. We played the first three quarters to get to the fourth, and that helped us out a lot.”
Stesiak’s predictions proved true, and the Trojans rallied back from a nine-point, 25-16 deficit at the 1:12 mark of the third to eventually knot the game up at 33-all at the 1:55 stop of the final quarter.
The big 17-8 run by the Trojans featured a pair of triples from junior Shana Anderson — who paced her team with nine points at Rochester — and three points with two offensive rebounds and a pair of assists by senior forward Megan Howdeshell. Howdeshell’s inside-out assist to point guard Taylor Hatfield for a 3 from the top of the key tied the game up for the first and only time with 1:55 to go as the Trojans finally began breaking down the Rochester zone.
“We didn’t look in the middle of the zone. (Howdeshell) has got to want it in there, and when she finally wanted it in there and we got it in there… she can score,” said Heckaman. “She can get the ball and go at it, and we get inside-outs and everything opens up. But we didn’t work through that at the beginning, we just passed it around. And Rochester did a good job of really getting out in the passing lanes and throwing us off a little bit, but we didn’t do the small things we needed to tonight.”
Rochester took its final lead of the night as junior guard Rylee Holland grabbed her third steal, and sophomore guard Kaelee Smith split a pair of free throws on a drawn foul with a shade over 53 seconds remaining. Triton freshman reserve Krystal Sellers came away with a big steal after a Rochester team offensive rebound, and a potential lead-changing Anderson jumper off the elbow rattled in and out with 13.2 seconds to go. Paulik pulled down the defensive board, and after a time out, the Zebras got it into the hands of senior guard Abbie Malchow on the inbounds play. Malchow cooly buried both charity tosses on a one and one with 7.1 seconds left to bring the margin to its final.
Triton got off a pair of 3-point attempts by Anderson and Breanna Lemler, but the buzzer sounded on the Trojans’ first loss of the season, breaking an 11-game regular-season win streak stretching back to Jan. 29 of last season.
“That’s how we set up the play, to try and get her the ball,” said Stesiak of Malchow. “Originally we were trying to look deep for her and she peeled back and got the ball, and that’s who we want at the line. The other big part of that was we played great defense in the second half and we had fouls to give. So when you’re looking at the last minute, 30 seconds with the lead, we were trying to foul so we could get the ball inbounds and make them run the clock every possession, four or five seconds. We kind of called it our Kentucky defense. Thankfully it worked out better than it did for the Cats.”
While Rochester improves to 6-2 rebounding from a loss at Wabash Saturday, Triton slips to 8-1 on the season. The Trojans will have a week layover before heading to Warsaw for a game next Wednesday, Dec. 21.
“All of our goals are still in place obviously, but the bottom line is they’re crying and they’re upset,” Heckaman said of his players. “I’m glad because that tells me that they don’t come into any game expecting to lose and when they do, they’re upset about it. They should be because they know they’re a little bit better than what they played. But we’re going to get back to work and get ready for the next game.”
At Rochester
Score by quarters
Triton: 6 13 21 33
Rochester: 10 20 25 36
TRITON (33): Kaelyn Mason 0 0-0 0, Taylor Hatfield 2 0-0 6, Breanna Lemler 2 0-0 4, Krystal Sellers 2 0-0 4, Kylie Mason 1 0-0 3, Mallorie Jennings 1 0-0 2, Shana Anderson 3 0-0 9, Megan Howdeshell 2 1-3 5; Totals: 13 1-3 33.
ROCHESTER (36): Rylee Holland 4 0-1 8, Alanie Sroufe 2 0-0 5, Kaelee Smith 0 1-2 1, Abbie Malchow 2 5-6 10, Breanne Paulik 0 0-0 0, Jenna Crispen 4 2-2 10, Leighnee Smith 0 0-0 0, Raeann Hunter 1 0-0 2; Totals: 13 8-11 36.
3-point goals: Triton 6 (Anderson 3, Hatfield 2, Ky. Mason), Rochester 2 (Sroufe, Malchow); Turnovers: Triton 8, Rochester 15; Rebounds: Triton 21 (Lemler 7), Rochester 22 (Holland 9); Assists: Triton 9 (Howdeshell 3), Rochester 7 (Sroufe 4); Steals: Triton 9 (Lemler 2, Sellers 2, Ky. Mason 2), Rochester 6 (Holland 3); Fouls (fouled out): Triton 12 (none), Rochester 7 (none).
Records: Triton 8-1, Rochester 6-2
JV score: Rochester 30, Triton 25