KNOX — Even after suffering a loss to Culver early in their Northern State Conference schedule, the Trojans knew they weren’t out of the hunt for an NSC title. They simply put the loss behind them and kept fighting.
Triton avoided a letdown on the road against a struggling Knox squad Friday, jumping out to a fast start and cruising to the NSC co-championship with a 76-37 win at Harold Weinberg Gymnasium.
The Trojans thus finish up league play at 6-1, tied with New Prairie for the NSC crown.
“Our conference is a good conference. We have some good coaches, and it’s hard to get through our conference without a loss. That’s one thing I’ve learned as a coach,” said Triton head coach Jason Groves. “Our kids kept battling in conference games and got us in a position to win it, and luckily we did.”
With sectionals beginning next week and playing against a struggling Knox team with a winless NSC record, the Trojans weren’t overlooking anyone Friday night. They jumped out to a fast 10-of-12 start from the floor to grab a 25-7 lead at the first quarter break and never looked back.
The visitors were in a sharing mood as they racked up nine team assists while converting at a 31-of-58 clip from the field with three players in double figures led by Clay Yeo’s 24 and 10 different players making the scoresheet. Junior Tanner Shepherd put up 16 points, and sophomore Joey Corder had a breakout night with eight rebounds, two steals, a pair of assists and 14 points, including 11 in the first half as Triton opened up a comfortable 46-14 halftime cushion.
“This is about ourselves,” said Groves. “When you come out and execute, that’s one thing we’ve been struggling with all year long is to do it consistently. Where you could possibly have a letdown tonight at Knox — they’re struggling — our kids didn’t do that. We came out focused and knew what was on the line and got off to a good start. It was execution; they did what we wanted to do. They were patient but still aggressive.”
“You’ve got to give Triton credit. Everybody was stepping up and knocking down shots. It wasn’t just Shepherd, it wasn’t just Yeo,” said Knox head coach Chris McGowen. “Their role players did a good job stepping up and when they got an outside shot they shot it with confidence and knocked it down. That was our game plan — make those kids beat us, and they did. Give them all the credit in the world, they shot the ball with confidence and it’s tough to beat them when you’ve got a kid the caliber of Yeo and you’re trying to beat him and everybody else is hitting too. They’re going to be a tough out in sectional. That’s going to be a great sectional over at Culver, and I wish Coach Groves the best of luck.”
Trailing by more than 30 it would have been easy for the Redskins to fold up their tents at halftime, but the home team regrouped on Senior Night, and Knox’s upperclassmen played with the Trojans in the second half of their final game at Weinberg Gym.
Dylan Short led his team with 12 points and five rebounds, while Brian Fulghum put up nine points, and Caleb Heinemen hustled his way to four points, two steals and two assists on the night.
“I just wrote one word on the board and it was ‘effort’. Talking about how we’re getting out-rebounded and basically just having some heart and pride,” said McGowen. “We decided to come out the second half there and with it being Senior Night the coaches and I just decided let’s go ahead and let the seniors play. This was their final game ever here at Weinberg Gym, and this is a special place; it’s a mecca for Starke County basketball. It’s a great place to play, the atmosphere is great, and I just wanted to give those kids an opportunity to go out and play their tails off, and they did. We played with them the second half, we did some good things, both defensively and offensively.”
While Knox closes out the regular season at 2-18 and 0-7 in NSC play, Triton moves to 15-5 with its seventh consecutive win.
Friday’s victory clinched the Trojans their fourth straight conference title.
“This means a lot. This is one of our goals, obviously coming in,” said Groves. “We talked about being focused for the conference championship, and I thought we got off to a really good start and we were focused coming out and doing some nice things. It’s not just our focus it’s our execution on offense and playing good defense. So I was really excited the way we started out.”
Knox will play Calumet in the late quarterfinal of the Class 3A Sectional 18 at Kankakee Valley next Tuesday.
Triton drew the bye in Class A Sectional 51 play and will wait to play the winner of Tuesday’s opener between Argos and Culver Community at Culver Friday at 6:30 p.m.
• TRITON 76,
Score by quarters
Triton: 25 46 63 76
Knox: 7 14 21 37
TRITON (76): Joey Corder 14, Clay Yeo 24, Darren Harrell 0, Bryson Mosier 2, Jordan Anderson 2, Bryce Wanemacher 0, Trenton Cooper 0, Tanner Shepherd 16, Seth Glingle 2, Cody Shively 4, Drew Mosson 5, Dillon Meadway 4, Skyler Reichert 3; Totals: 31 9-13 76.
KNOX (37): Davey Johnston 0, Dylan Short 14, Curt Scherer 2, Caleb Heinemen 4, Colton Fox 0, Jeremy Crittendon 0, Cody Fletcher 0, Brian Fulghum 9, Colton Hill 2, Dakota Manns 0, Austin Hansen 6, Jordan Anderson 0; Totals: 12 10-12 37.
3-pointers: Triton 5 (Corder, Yeo, Shepherd, Mosson, Reichert), Knox 3 (Fulghum 2, Short); Rebounds: Triton 38 (Corder 8, Yeo 8), Knox 17 (Short 5); Turnovers: Triton 11, Knox 17; Steals: Triton 7 (Yeo 3), Knox 6 (Heinemen 2); Assists: Triton 14 (Yeo 4), Knox 5 (Heinemen 2, Fletcher 2); Fouls (fouled out): Triton 12 (none), Knox 14 (none).
Records: Triton 15-5 (6-1 NSC), Knox 2-18 (0-7 NSC).
JV score: Triton 39 (Masen Yeo 11, Jordan Anderson 11), Knox 34 (Jordan Anderson 6, P.J. McKee 6).