BOURBON — At some point during Clay Yeo’s otherworldly third quarter, the Triton student section started chanting, “You can’t stop him.”
True? Sure. A gross oversimplification of said truth? Absolutely. Then again, “You’re entirely helpless to in any way moderate the influence of this man among boys upon this regional championship game,” while more specific, lacks the snappy cadence of, “You can’t stop him.”
In his final game at The Trojan Trench, the unstoppable Yeo piled up a game-high 35 points, five boards, and three blocked shots, all while thwarting Pioneer’s Brandon Scruggs, to carry the 10th-ranked Trojans to a 53-41 Class A Boys Basketball Regional 13 championship win Saturday over the No. 4 Panthers.
“I don’t know what to say,” Triton head coach Jason Groves said. “Clay never ceases to amaze me. He’s a phenomenal talent. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player, and it’s a blessing to coach him. I thank God every day for these kids.
“This is really special,” Groves said of his program’s fourth regional crown in the last six seasons. “It’s Clay’s senior year. These seniors are a special group; they’re dedicated to the program, and I didn’t want to see the season end. The other thing is for the first time we’ve been playing an underdog role; it was questionable if we were even going to get out of the sectional. The kids have embraced being underdogs and done a great job.”
The Trojans, seeking their fourth state finals berth since 2008, advance to Saturday’s north semistate against No. 6 Lafayette Central Catholic at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
“At the beginning of the year I didn’t know if this was a regional championship team,” Groves, whose squad collected its 11th straight win Saturday, said. “Later in the season I told my wife this team is starting to get it. Down the stretch they’ve been pretty good, about the time we played LaVille the second time, early in February. It started around the loss to LaVille in the Bi-County. I told them we could go one of two ways: we could practice like we’ve been practicing or we can make a decision to practice hard every day. They’ve made the decision to practice hard.”
The 6-foot-6 Yeo drained 13-of-17 tries from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, with a dominating combination of dribble penetration and perimeter jumpers. His steal and two-handed stuff with 6:28 to go in the third frame touched off a personal 25-point second-half outburst that accounted for all 12 of the Trojans’ third-quarter points and rendered a couple of first-half turnovers a distant memory.
“Believe it or not, I get nervous sometimes, too,” Yeo said. “But we needed to make plays, and my teammates trust me to make plays and that gives me confidence. The sixth man — our crowd — was huge. When they’re loud our defense is so much better.
“Oh my gosh, it’s awesome,” Yeo said of winning his final game in his home gym. “Look at it all; I’m probably going to get 1,000 hugs tonight from people congratulating us.”
A Yeo driving bucket with 4:08 left in the third frame accounted for the game’s final lead swap and staked Triton to a 27-26 edge. Yeo later powered an 11-2 fourth-quarter spurt to open up a 46-34 cushion with 1:51 left in the game.
“He is so multi-dimensional,” Pioneer head coach Pat Skaggs said of Yeo. “He’s 6-5, 6-6 and may be the quickest kid on the floor. We didn’t slow him down. In my mind he’s an Indiana All-Star.”
Defensively, Yeo held Scruggs — who racked up 19 points and 16 rebounds in the Panthers’ 63-49 regional semifinal win over Gary 21st Century earlier in the day — to just two points on 1 of 8 from the field.
“Brandon Scruggs is a really good player,” Yeo said. “We knew they had three guys who score double figures and we had to stop them to put us in a position to win, and we did. Coach Groves always has us prepared.”
Meanwhile, Triton junior forward Cody Shively clamped down on Pioneer leading scorer Carter Skaggs, a 6-4 sophomore combo who scored 24 points in the morning game, allowing him six points on 2 of 10 from field-goal range.
“My plan was just to come out and stick (Skaggs),” Shively said. “My goal was to hold him to half his average. He’s a tough guy to defend. He can penetrate, he can shoot from outside, and he can go inside.”
The Trojans’ lockdown defense left both Skaggs and Scruggs visibly frustrated and relegated the duo to casting up ill-advised shots.
“The kids know when the other team gets frustrated, and they kind of like it,” Groves said. “You can see it in their eyes. They’ll even tell me, ‘Coach, we can frustrate this guy.’ Cody Shively did a remarkable job on Skaggs. Clay did a great job on Scruggs, but it’s five versus five, not one on one; it’s a team.
“These kids are good defenders,” he added. “It’s not necessarily a game plan, they know if they don’t play defense they don’t play. These kids are smart and have the mindset that they’re going to execute.”
Also for Triton, sophomore Joey Corder chipped in six points and four assists, highlighted by back-to-back dishes to Yeo for a 31-26 advantage with 2:51 left in the third stanza. Tanner Shepherd pitched in six points for the Trojans, including a quartet of fourth-quarter charity tosses to help ice the contest.
Senior forward Matthew Dorris led the Panthers with 19 points and three blocked shots before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
“(Triton) did a really good job on Brandon Scruggs and Carter,” the Pioneer skipper said. “I thought their role players stepped up and were very solid on the defensive end. We ran into a pretty good team.”
• TRITON 53, PIONEER 41
At Class A Triton Regional championship
Score by quarters
Pioneer: 4 18 30 41
Triton: 6 21 33 53
PIONEER (41): Tyler Beaupre 6, JP Smith 0, Stephen Whitlock 6, Brandon Scruggs 2, Alex Boonstra 0, Sam Kiser 0, Matthew Dorris 19, Mitchell Williams 2, Carter Skaggs 6, Dillon Stanton 0; Totals: 16 5-9 41.
TRITON (53): Joey Corder 6, Clay Yeo 35, Darren Harrell 0, Bryson Mosier 0, Jordan Anderson 0, Trenton Cooper 0, Tanner Shepherd 6, Seth Glingle 1, Cody Shively 0, Drew Mosson 0, Dillon Meadway 0, Skyler Reichert 5; Totals: 19 11-15 53.
3-pointers: Pioneer 4 (Beaupre 2, Whitlock 2), Triton 4 (Yeo 3, Reichert); Turnovers: Pioneer 8, Triton 11; Rebounds: Pioneer 15 (Dorris 5), Triton 25 (Yeo 5); Assists: Pioneer 5, Triton 7 (Corder 4); Steals: Pioneer 6 (Whitlock), Triton 6 (Yeo, Glingle 2); Fouls (fouled out): Pioneer 15 (Dorris), Triton 11 (Glingle).
Records: Pioneer 21-4 (final), Triton 19-5.
TRITON 44, FORT WAYNE CANTERBURY 41
Superb team defense and timely offense allowed host Triton to surge past Fort Wayne Canterbury 44-41 in the second regional semifinal Saturday.
Triton’s Clay Yeo fought through third-quarter foul trouble to net a game-leading 17 points, including a pair of go-ahead free throws with 2:51 left in the game.
Junior Tanner Shepherd added 14 points and teamed with Yeo to hold Canterbury leading scorer Trent VanHorn to 11 points – 20 points below his average.
Van Horn missed his first eight shot attempts, finished 3 of 17 from the field, turned the ball over six times, and clanked a long potential game-tying trey off the front of the iron at the final horn.
“We did a great job on VanHorn, Clay specifically the whole first half,” Triton head coach Jason Groves said. “Then Tanner Shepherd stepped up in the second half. It was just a great team win.”
Senior Drew Mosson and sophomore Skyler Reichert added a key 3 apiece off the bench for Triton, and senior post man Seth Glingle ripped down eight rebounds.
“When Clay went out the rest of the kids did a nice job and even gained some ground,” Groves said. “They know Clay’s our man, but they also know when he’s not doing things like he usually does that they need to step up. These kids are smart players, and they don’t care who gets the credit; they just want to win.”
The Cavaliers, paced by Chase Moyle’s 16 points, led 38-37 midway through the fourth frame. Attempting to burn clock, Canterbury threw the ball away twice in a row, setting the stage for a game-deciding 7-0 Triton mini-run.
“We were down one, in foul trouble so we didn’t mind if (Canterbury) took some time off the clock, but not too much,” Groves said. “We turned up the pressure and got a couple of deflections. What I really like is our kids refused to lose down the stretch.”
• TRITON 44, FORT WAYNE CANTERBURY 41
At Class A Triton Regional semifinal
Score by quarters
Triton: 16 27 35 44
Canterbury: 11 23 34 41
TRITON (44): Joey Corder 4, Clay Yeo 17, Bryson Mosier 0, Tanner Shepherd 14, Seth Glingle 2, Cody Shively 1, Drew Mosson 3, Skyler Reichert 3; Totals: 13 14-20 44.
CANTERBURY (41): Trent VanHorn 11, Trevor Uhl 0, Christian Kreiger 0, Trevor Jacobs 0, Grant Sinn 4, Chase Moyle 16, Joey Pedro 2, Andrew Kus 8; Totals: 15 9-10 41.
3-pointers: Triton 4 (Shepherd 2, Mosson, Reichert), Canterbury 2 (Moyle); Turnovers: Triton 9, Canterbury 11; Rebounds: Triton 27 (Yeo 9, Glingle 8), Canterbury 23 (VanHorn 8); Assists: Triton 9 (Yeo 5), Canterbury 5; Steals: Triton 6 (Corder, Shively 2), Canterbury 9 (Moyle 4); Fouls (fouled out): Triton 10 (none), Canterbury 16 (none); Records: Triton 18-5, Canterbury 15-9 (final).