CULVER — It may be a new sectional site, but Triton is looking for the same result as the Class A Sectional 19 gets under way this week.
The five-peat champion Trojans are hitting the road for the first time in tourney play since 2008 as Culver Community hosts this year’s tilt, but while Triton may be in hostile territory, the team isn’t looking to let its championship streak end this week.
The Trojans drew the lone bye at the seven-team tournament and will have to wait to see who wins Tuesday’s opener between the host Cavaliers and Argos, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. South Central plays Westville in the early game Wednesday at 6:30, while Oregon-Davis takes on No. 7-ranked Marquette Catholic in the night game. Triton will play Tuesday’s winner at 6:30 Friday with the winner of Wednesday’s match-ups slated to play in the nightcap.
While Culver — which handed Triton its lone Northern State Conference loss at the Trojan Trench back on Jan. 11 — is the probable favorite in Tuesday’s quarterfinal, Trojans head coach Jason Groves isn’t assuming anything.
“We’re fortunate to get the bye. It gives us some time to focus on ourselves and take care of some things. We’ll play whoever comes out of that, and we’ll be ready,” said Groves. “We’re excited about this opportunity. These seniors have really worked hard, and they really want that sectional this year. They don’t want the streak to end, that’s for sure. We’re going to prepare ourselves for whoever wins Tuesday and be ready.”
While the Trojans may have lost to Culver at home in the regular season and Marquette is ranked comfortably inside the AP Top 10, Triton is still the tourney favorite until someone dethrones the five-time champions. And multiple record-holder Clay Yeo and company are playing pretty complete basketball right now with seven straight wins headed into the tournament.
“I think it just comes down to other guys contributing and stepping up. Going back to the execution, we’re not trying to do too much but we’re still being aggressive and attacking and we’re trusting each other,” said Groves of his team’s streak. “We’re moving the ball well, we’re getting good, high percentage shots, and we’re knocking shots down. And we’ve been consistent on the defensive end as well. When we get that consistency we’re a good team, but when we don’t we’re not.”
Culver is hoping to translate home court advantage into its first sectional title since the last time the Cavs hosted a tourney in 2008, then a 2A sectional. First they’ll have to get through Argos, however.
The two teams played pretty recently at Culver with the Cavs handing the Dragons a convincing 46-23 defeat. And the match-up has only gotten more difficult for Argos with the re-addition of 6-4 senior Jacoda Anderson to the Culver lineup.
Between Anderson and 6-6 senior Micah Budzinski in the post as well as 6-4 junior swingman Trent Elliott, and Collin Stevens, Kyle Vlach and freshman shooter Everett Krueger on the perimeter, Argos will likely have to pick a poison in Tuesday’s opener.
“We know their personnel — Elliot’s a great scorer, Budzinski does a great job as an inside post presence, and now they have the Anderson kid back that gives them another post player that can create some problems for us,” said Argos head coach Doug Snyder. “Stevens and Vlach and Kreuger all do a good job of shooting open 3s, so that makes it tough on us defensively. We can’t help in the post as much as we want defensively because they can shoot the 3.”
If the Dragons get through their opener, the road will likely only get tougher.
Triton will be waiting Friday night and then there’s No. 7 Marquette, which is the easy favorite on paper against a young OD team, although the Bobcats are on the upswing with three of the team’s four wins coming in its last five games.
“If we’re fortunate enough, we’d have to play the top three teams in the tournament,” Snyder said. “Marquette’s ranked in the top 10. Triton, even though they’re not ranked as high as Marquette, could be the best team in the tournament; probably is the best team in the tournament. And then of course Culver has beaten Triton, so it’s a good tournament as far as some top teams, quality teams that are in our bracket especially. It should be an exciting tournament.”
Class A Sectional 51
Tuesday, Feb. 26
Culver Community (12-8) vs. Argos (5-15) 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 27: 6:30:
South Central (3-16) vs. Westville (11-9) 6:30 p.m.
Marquette Catholic (16-5) vs. Oregon-Davis (4-15) 8 p.m.
Friday, March 1
Triton (15-5) vs. Culver-Argos winner 6:30 p.m.
South Central-Westville winner vs. Marquette-Oregon-Davis winner 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 2
Championship 6:30 p.m.