BOURBON — With just one game separating Triton from a return to the state finals, it’s important for players not to become infected with their own March Madness.
As the No. 2 Trojans (22-3) take on 12th-ranked Rockville (21-6) at the Class A Lafayette Jefferson Semistate this Saturday at 4 p.m. EST, this week’s lessons have been all about focus.
“We talk a lot about focus. It’s March. These kids are 15, 16, 17, 18-year-old kids, and obviously it’s not easy for them to keep focused any time, let alone when you’re month four or five into the season,” said Triton head coach Jason Groves. “That’s what we’ve talked about. We’ve got to stay focused. Seniors, you’ve got two more weeks, hopefully. This could be your last week of practice, this could be your last game, and I think that showed a little bit Saturday night when the seniors kind of played with a little bit more toughness, just a little bit more of a sense of purpose.”
And Rockville demands Triton’s attention.
Led by 6-foot-7 sophomore standout Lane Mahurin, the Rox are on a 14-game win streak including the school’s first regional championship win over Blue River Valley at the Frankfort Regional last weekend.
Between Mahurin in the paint and a host of shooters able to put up double digits, Rockville makes for a tough matchup both inside and out.
“The Mahurin kid inside — he’s about 6-7 and long — poses problems on offense,” said Groves. “Obviously we have to match up with him away from the basket. Defensively he’s a big body inside, he can block shots and just change the complexion of the game. He’s a great player... so he has to be a focus, but they also have some kids that can shoot. They spread you out offensively, and they’re solid defensively, so it’ll be a tough challenge.”
One advantage the Trojans can call their own is their tournament experience.
While the Rox are coming into their first ever semistate at Lafayette Jeff, Saturday marks Triton’s third appearance at the tourney in the past four seasons. Leading scorer Griffyn Carpenter has been there at both of the Trojans’ past forays to semistate and beyond, while fellow seniors Austin Davis and Jordan Everett are making their second such trip after Triton’s 24-3 state runner-up campaign in 2008-09.
“The kids have been through this,” said Groves. “They know what it feels like to play in front of this Lafayette crowd so hopefully we can use that to our advantage and get off to a really good start on Saturday. A lot of times, it boils down to your senior leaders and the kids who have experience, and you look at teams that usually go deep in the tournament and that’s what it’s about.”