Yeo leads Triton to 6th straight
CULVER — Triton boys basketball all-time leading scorer Clay Yeo earns most of his accolades through his offensive exploits.
The long-limbed 6-foot-6 senior guard plays pretty respectable defense, too.
Yeo, who hit the tying and game-winning free throws with 25 seconds left in the Class A Sectional 51 title game Saturday, snapped up a pair of steals in the final 5 seconds to preserve No. 10 Triton’s 47-46 victory over eighth-ranked Michigan City Marquette at John R. Nelson Gymnasium.
“I just try to read the ballplayer’s eyes,” Yeo said of his steal with 5 seconds to play. “My offense gets a lot of attention, but I see myself as a pretty good defender.
“My teammates trust me and that gives me confidence,” he said of his game-winning free throws. “I don’t want to let them down. It’s win at all costs.”
The Trojans, who claimed their sixth straight sectional crown, return home for regional action next Saturday. Triton (17-5) plays the winner of tonight’s contest between Lakewood Park (17-5) and Fort Wayne Canterbury (14-8). No. 4 Pioneer (20-3) meets Gary 21st Century (15-7) in the other regional semifinal.
“Marquette is a good team; they’ll be back,” Triton head coach Jason Groves said. “The reason this (sectional title) is so special is because I did not want to see these seniors go out. It’s such a great group, and they’ve given so much to this program. Fortunately, our seniors stepped up.”
In vintage Yeo fashion, the Valparaiso University recruit dominated the evening with 32 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. He finished 14 of 25 from the field, shredding the Blazers off the dribble both going to the rim and pulling up in the lane for soft jumpers.
With Triton trailing 46-45 coming out of a timeout with 30 seconds left in regulation, Yeo quickly drew body contact from Marquette big man Jasmin Biberovikj with 25 ticks on the clock. Yeo converted both ends of a bonus situation for the final lead swap in a game featuring five ties and nine lead changes.
“In the timeout with 30 seconds left the guys asked if we were going for the last shot,” Groves said. “I wanted to play it differently; I said get it and take it at them right away to give us extra time in case we needed it. (Marquette) hedged really hard, Clay drew contact and did a nice job knocking down the free throws.”
As the Blazers set up for the last shot with time winding down, Yeo stripped the ball from 6-8 Marquette sophomore Ryan Fazekas in the left corner. Although Yeo missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3 seconds to play, he intercepted the final pass of the game to deny the Blazers a desperation heave at the horn.
“I was trying to play with a sense of urgency,” Yeo said. “Credit to our defense. That’s what won it tonight.”
Triton junior Tanner Shepherd chipped in nine points, including a rebound basket of his own miss and foul to give the Trojans a 45-44 edge at the 2:20 mark of the fourth quarter.
“I knew (Biberovikj) was in foul trouble,” Shepherd said. “I got the ball on an isolation and just tried to get it to the hoop. He blocked me; I got it back, tried to make contact, and it was really nice to get the and one.”
Shepherd also scored a go-ahead tip-in to open the second half. For the game, Triton out-rebounded Marquette, 29-23, 14-5 on the offensive glass. Yeo, Shepherd, Seth Glingle, and Joey Corder all tracked down multiple offensive rebounds to help Triton overcome a 1-of-15 mark from 3-point range and limit the athletic Blazers’ opportunities to run.
“We decided to go to Tanner; he’s been playing well,” Groves said of Shepherd’s critical 3-point play. “We had a shooter in the opposite corner and Clay opposite in the block. That was a stick-to-it-ive, or whatever you want to call it, play; he stayed with it. It was a great effort.
“We knew boards were going to be extremely important,” he added. “One of our goals was to keep (Marquette) off the boards and limit their second-chance points. We fought and battled and did a great job.”
Defensively, the Trojans held Marquette nearly 20 points below its season average and kept the game largely a halfcourt battle with neither team ever building more than a two-possession bulge.
“We wanted to pack it in and limit their penetration,” Groves said. “We gave up some open looks on the perimeter, but the big thing was cutting off their penetration.”
Nathan Flores scored a team-high 13 points for the Blazers, followed by 11 points from Biberovikj, who handed Marquette its final lead with a pair of free throws with 38 seconds left. Fazekas, held to 1 of 8 from the field by Yeo, hauled in eight rebounds and dished out three assists.
• CLASS A SECTIONAL 51
TRITON 47, MICHIGAN CITY MARQUETTE 46
Score by quarters
Triton: 15 27 34 47
Marquette: 11 27 39 46
TRITON (47): Joey Corder 2, Clay Yeo 32, Bryson Mosier 2, Tanner Shepherd 9, Seth Glingle 0, Cody Shively 0, Drew Mosson 0, Dillon Meadway 2, Skyler Reichert 0; Totals: 19 8-13 47.
MARQUETTE (46): Braxton Miller 2, Jaylen Jemison 0, Ritchie Mitchell 5, Nathan Flores 13, JoVonte Peals 7, Malcolm Reed 4, Ryan Fazekas 4, Jasmin Biberovikj 11; Totals: 15 12-16 46.
3-point goals: Triton 1 (Shepherd), Marquette 4 (Flores 2, Mitchell, Peals); Turnovers: Triton 9, Marquette 12; Rebounds: Triton 29 (Yeo 10), Marquette 23 (Fazekas 8); Assists: Triton 5, Marquette 10 (Miller, Fazekas 3); Steals: Triton 6 (Yeo 5), Marquette 5; Fouls (fouled out): Triton 16 (none), Marquette 16 (none).
Records: Triton 17-5, Marquette 18-6 (final).