LAKEVILLE — With Triton trailing by two and time for one last shot, everyone in the gym knew who the ball was going to.
And given Clay Yeo’s track record of hitting game-winning shots, LaVille head coach Michael Edison decided to make a gamble — triple down on the senior Valpo recruit and make the Trojans win with someone else.
The gambit paid off when Joey Corder’s would-be winner from deep clanged harmlessly off the back of the rim as time expired on a 50-48 LaVille victory, and a raucous home crowd celebrated the program’s first Bi-County championship berth since 1997 at Dale E. Cox Gymnasium Friday.
“We wanted to put two guys on him and make him give it up, and he did,” said Edison. “Hey, somebody had a wide open look. We were trying to get splits is what we call them where one guy is guarding two and you’ve kind of got to read which guy the ball is going to go to kind of like a Manti Te’o or an inside linebacker or a safety.
“I’ve seen and I’ve scouted him way too many times and seen him hit way too many game-winners and buzzer-beaters, and I just wanted somebody else to beat us.”
“I think they had maybe three guys on him. They weren’t going to let him take the shot and beat them,” said Triton head coach Jason Groves. “Credit them, they’re going to make somebody else beat them. That’s what I would do. We got a good look, that’s for sure. We got a wide open look, and we’ve just got to knock it down, but that wasn’t the outcome of the game.”
The Trojans led 23-17 at the half, but Andrew Hostetler’s hot hand quickly changed the game’s complexion in the second half. The senior sharpshooter rained down 4-of-4 3-pointers as his teammates found him again and again during a 16-4 run spanning nearly five and a half minutes of the third period. LaVille entered the final frame up 35-29 and never trailed again in the semifinal thriller.
Hostetler finished the game with a co-high 24 points earned mostly on the strength of a 7-for-13 clip from beyond the arc to power his team to its third straight win over the three-peat Bi-County champion Trojans.
“Andrew got on a streak there with three or four 3s that were real big for us because we’re down by quite a few and all of a sudden we’re up three,” said Edison. “I was kind of shocked and surprised. But not surprised that he hit those because he’s capable of doing that.”
“They run him off a zillion screens. It’s tough to get through all of them,” said Groves. “They did a nice job really cranking up their screens in that third quarter, and we just couldn’t get through them and get out and contest them. He was on fire, there’s not much you can do with that when you’re fighting through and trying to get out and contest.”
“I thought for us we got in too big a hurry offensively,” he added. “They went on the run, and we kind of got too excited, tried to do a little bit too much without working with the ball, getting reversals and then getting penetration. We just need a little bit more patience. That along with not hitting free throws kind of hurt us.”
LaVille pushed its lead out to as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, but senior reserve Drew Mosson — whose father and Triton assistant coach Gordon Mosson was honored prior to the game as the winningest coach in Bi-County history with 10 titles and 15 championship game appearances during his 25-year tenure as the head coach at Glenn — knocked down a pair of 3s in the final minute to keep Triton close.
But the Trojans couldn’t find one last shot, and LaVille advanced to the finals of the Bi-County opposite John Glenn tonight, when the Lancers will play for their first championship at the home tourney since 1974.
“The thing I think our guys grasped is that we can enjoy this victory for about 15 minutes, which if I look at my watch we only have about four more minutes,” said Edison with a smile. “Because Glenn, even though we beat them earlier in the year, we hadn’t beaten them for 17 years. They have had our number for years and years and years, and they are playing so much better, and they’re physical, they’re tough, they mentally are with it. So it’s going to be as big a challenge if not even bigger for us tomorrow night against them.”
While LaVille was led by Hostetler’s 24, Blake Berger scored 13, and Nicholas Amor finished with 10 points and four assists.
The Trojans were paced by Yeo’s 24 points with 12 rebounds, while Tanner Shepherd scored 14, and Cody Shively chipped in seven assists before fouling out with 1:24 left to play.
Triton slipped to 8-5 with its second loss in three games in the program’s first non-championship Bi-County finish since re-entering the tournament field in 2010.
• LaVILLE 50, TRITON 48
Score by quarters
Triton: 9 23 29 48
LaVille: 9 17 35 50
TRITON (48): Joey Corder 5, Clay Yeo 24, Darren Harrell 0, Trenton Cooper 0, Tanner Shepherd 14, Seth Glingle 4, Cody Shively 0, Drew Mosson 6, Dillon Meadway 0, Skyler Reichert 0; Totals: 16 10-17 48.
LaVILLE (50): Cameron Gurtner 0, Blake Berger 13, Landon Manuel 0, Jeff Haygood 1, Andrew Hostetler 24, Alec Baker 2, Nicholas Amor 10; Totals: 15 8-15 50.
3-pointers: Triton 6 (Yeo, Shepherd 2, Mosson 2), LaVille 8 (Hostetler 7, Berger 1); Rebounds: Triton 38 (Yeo 12), LaVille 27 (Haygood 6); Turnovers: Triton 12, LaVille 7; Steals: Triton 1 (Shively 1), LaVille 4 (Berger 2, Manuel 2); Assists: Triton 11 (Shively 7), LaVille 12 (Amor 4); Fouls (fouled out): Triton 17 (none), LaVille 17 (none).
Records: Triton 8-5, LaVille 9-4.