INDIANAPOLIS — The one thing Triton boys basketball head coach Jason Groves wanted to avoid, happened.
The Trojans fell behind early, and despite a Class A State Finals record-setting fourth quarter, never quite recovered in a 55-50 loss to Borden at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday.
Making its fourth appearance in the state finals since 2008, Triton finished 4 of 16 from the field in the first half and never led against the Braves, although Triton’s second-half switch from man to a 1-3-1 halfcourt zone trap yielded dividends.
“We didn’t get off to a very good start,” Groves, whose program won the 2008 state title before falling at Indianapolis in 2009 and 2011, said. “We dug a hole; that’s the one thing I didn’t want to do. It didn’t look like it was (Borden’s) first time here. They looked like they’ve been here four times, and we looked like it was the first time we were here.
“I wasn’t anticipating using the 1-3-1 as much as we did,” he added. “That was Plan B. I didn’t want to go to Plan B, but we had to. Our biggest strength has been our defense, but they’re patient, spread you out, and penetrate. Our offense was stagnant. We had to speed up the game, and the 1-3-1 gave us a chance to get back in the game.”
Trailing 28-19 going into the fourth frame, the Trojans erupted for 31 points in the final eight minutes — a Class A State Finals record for most points in a quarter — pulling within two points, 44-42 on Clay Yeo’s trey from the top of the key at the 2:56 mark.
Borden, though, with Triton rallying, hit four triples — the first two from senior guard Jalen McCoy — in five possessions midway through the final stanza and wrapped up the game at the foul line.
“A lot of credit goes to them,” Groves said. “Every time we were knocking on the door they’d hit a big shot. It wasn’t from the high school 3-point line; it was way back there. I’m proud of our kids for cutting it to two. I like the effort at the end.”
In the final game of his remarkable high school career, Yeo scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half — 19 in the fourth quarter alone — and grabbed six rebounds.
“I was a little bit more aggressive in the second half,” Yeo said. “My teammates gave me the ball, and I tried to create. (Borden) knew where I was at all times. I like to go to the basket early and get in a flow, but it wasn’t there. I had open looks in the first half they just didn’t fall. They prepared for us very well.”
Yeo, a 6-foot-6 Valparaiso recruit, climbed atop the Marshall County all-time scoring list with a couple of charity tosses with 4:14 left in the game, closing out his four years with 1,992 points.
“Yeo is a legit D-I guy,” Borden head coach Doc Nash said. “He hit a shot on the baseline falling away with two guys in his face, and then we score and it takes him 3 seconds to get up the floor for an and one. The kid is good. He’s the best player we’ve played against. He’s bigger and more athletic than us.”
After Triton cut its deficit to two points, Borden senior Cody Bachman rebounded his own miss from the left block, drew a foul and drilled a pair of free throws.
The Trojans twice pulled within three points down the stretch — the first on a Yeo traditional 3-point play, the second on a pair of Yeo free throws, to make it a 50-47 game with 1:18 left.
However, Borden point guard Billy Kirchgessner then drained two free throws with 54 seconds left in the game, and stole the ball with 39 ticks on the clock. Bachman followed with a pair of charity tosses to seal the outcome.
“It was incredibly deflating,” Yeo said. “We crawled back in the game, and then they’d go and hit a huge shot.”
Tanner Shepherd chipped in 10 points for the Trojans, including a free throw for the game’s second and final tie, 5-5 at the 4:22 mark of the opening quarter. Sophomore guard Joey Corder secured a game-leading seven rebounds and dished out three assists for Triton, while senior center Seth Glingle muscled his way to four offensive boards.
However, with Borden clogging the lane defensively and Triton shying away from perimeter attempts in the first half, the Trojans struggled offensively and entered the intermission down 18-9.
“They really stifled us in the first half,” Groves said. “There was nowhere to go off penetration. We could’ve gotten more shots from outside, but that’s not us.”
According to Nash, the Braves wanted Triton shooting from the perimeter.
“We want someone else to beat us,” Nash said. “We want to make teams hit some 3-pointers. Tonight they didn’t want to shoot 3-pointers.”
McCoy finished with 15 points for Borden, which hit 8 of 14 from 3-point territory, led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter and maintained a multiple-possession edge most of the day. Trester Award winner Michael Lynch added 13 points for the Braves. Bachman, who held Yeo to two points in the first half, scored 10 points, and Kirchgessner added nine points, four assists, and three steals.
“We came here earlier in the week just to get a feel for playing here, and our kids shot very well from the 3-point line,” Nash said. “On our way back I said, ‘I hope we save some for Saturday morning.’ Looking at the stat sheet, I say we did. I don’t think we’ve hit eight 3s in a game this year.”
Triton now bids farewell to seniors Yeo, Glingle, Drew Mosson, Bryson Mosier, and Trenton Cooper.
“Clay, as a coach at a small school, is a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Groves said. “He’s everything to our program. The thing I’m most proud of is he’s really mature. He’s a good person, a good student. I’m not sure how you replace a guy like Clay.
“These seniors have done a great job,” he added. “The second half of the year they’ve picked it up in terms of work ethic and teaching the younger kids. We’ll miss them.”
• IHSAA CLASS A STATE FINAL
BORDEN 55, TRITON 50
Score by quarters
Triton: 7 9 19 50
Borden: 13 18 28 55
TRITON (50): Cody Shively 1 1-1 3, Seth Glingle 2 0-0 4, Joey Corder 2 0-0 4, Clay Yeo 9 6-6 26, Tanner Shepherd 3 3-4 10, Darren Harrell 0 0-0 0, Bryson Mosier 0 0-0 0, Bryce Wanemacher 0 0-0 0, Trenton Cooper 1 0-0 3, Drew Mosson 0 0-0 0, Dillon Meadway 0 0-0 0, Skyler Reichert 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18 10-11 50.
BORDEN (55): Garrett Vick 2 1-2 5, Michael Lynch 5 2-5 13, Cody Bachman 2 5-6 10, Billy Kirchgessner 2 3-4 9, Jalen McCoy 6 0-0 15, Josh Vollstedt 1 0-0 3, Josh Ruedinger 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18 11-17 55.
3-point goals: Triton 4 (Yeo 2, Shepherd, Cooper), Borden 8 (McCoy 3, Kirchgessner 2, Vick, Bachman, Vollstedt); Turnovers: Triton 8, Borden 6; Rebounds: Triton 28 (Corder 7), Borden 23 (Vick 6); Assists: Triton 7 (Corder 3), Borden 13 (Kirchgessner 4); Steals: Triton 4, Borden 6 (Kirchgessner 3); Fouls (fouled out): Triton 14 (Glingle), Borden 13 (Vick); Records: Triton 20-6 (final), Borden 24-3 (final).