BOURBON — Triton’s 5-3 start to the season was anything but overwhelming, especially considering the level of expectations placed on the Class A third-ranked three-peat sectional champs.
The good news for the Trojans is they seem to be regaining some of their former swagger. And that was bad news Saturday night for Culver.
The Cavaliers played even with their hosts for around six minutes of the opening frame but they soon began to unravel against Triton’s zone press and half-court trap, and the Trojans went on a 25-7 run spanning from the 1:51 mark of the second frame until halftime en route to a lopsided 69-49 Northern State Conference win at The Trojan Trench Saturday.
“I think early in the year we had some injuries and we weren’t totally at 100 percent. I think we’re getting to that point, and part of it is practice,” said Triton head basketball coach Jason Groves. “At the beginning of the year I wasn’t pleased with our effort in practice. We didn’t compete very well in practice, but I think our effort is getting better. I don’t think it’s where I want it to be ideally, but it is better and I think that’s showing in our results in the games. So hopefully our kids realize you can’t just show up on game night and it’s just going to happen for you. I think they realize now that this hard work they’re putting in in practice is kind of carrying over.”
The Trojans’ defense made all the difference Saturday, as they pressured Culver into 19 turnovers, converting those miscues into 27 points and seizing the game’s momentum soundly in the second quarter.
“I thought early our kids came out with the right intensity,” said Culver head coach Kyle Elliott. “Some good things were going our way, but in that second quarter we had some unforced turnovers and some that were forced out of their defense, and when you’re playing a team of this caliber, you have to take care of the ball... and some of our turnovers did lead directly to some points for them, and then that margin just opened up at the other end.”
While Triton pushed the pace in the fullcourt press, the home team’s halfcourt also looked strong as it held Cavs star guard Zoe Bauer to an uncharacteristic 4-for-10 effort from the field and just 11 points for the night.
“Zoe is a good ball player, and he’s going to receive a lot of special defensive pressure; he’s not going to be out on the floor and somebody not know where he is,” Elliott said. “He’s got a lot to learn in big games like this — and we talk to him about it and he’s a bright kid and a quality young man — but he’s got to make sure that the game is able to come to him and involve teammates. Sometimes in a big game like this a player of that caliber will try and put the team on his shoulders a little bit or try to carry them through, and that’s a tough thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Triton’s dual scoring threat of Griffyn Carpenter and Clay Yeo were hitting on all cylinders at over 60 percent field accuracy as Carpenter tallied a season-high 34 points just one game after passing the 1,000-point mark, and Yeo put up 21 points, including a pair of highlight reel-worthy dunks off the fast break.
“Those guys have been pretty consistent night-in and night-out so it’s nice to see those guys doing what they do,” Groves said. “But again, I think that’s because our other guys are recognizing that those are our go-to guys and getting them the ball. Those are the guys that are going to score for us and they have been.”
With Bauer struggling and fellow senior A.J. Neace out for disciplinary reasons Saturday, Culver was led by point guard Collin Stevens as he scored a season-high 16 points for the Cavs.
“We moved Collin up to the point there or up to the top of that 2-1-2 that we were running against them, and I thought he did a nice job overall at breaking it down, had some nice assists out of it and found some gaps and we were able to get him off of a few screens and he hit some open shots,” said Elliott. “He’s a competitor, a sophomore and he’s learning, but I thought he did step up and do some positive things for us.”
Culver slips to 6-3 overall with a 2-1 NSC mark, while Triton improves to 8-3 with an unblemished 3-0 record in the conference. Both will enter Bi-County Tournament play Tuesday, when Culver travels to Bremen, and the Trojans hit the road for New Prairie.
Both games are scheduled for 8 p.m.
• TRITON 69, CULVER 49
Score by quarters
Culver 8 15 28 49
Triton 13 33 53 69
CULVER (49): Zoe Bauer 11, Scotty Brown 3, Micah Budzinski 2, Larry Clingler 2, Trent Elliott 9, Patrick McBee 4, Collin Stevens 16, Kyle Vlach 2. TOTALS: 17 8-12 49.
TRITON (69): Griffyn Carpenter 34, Quentyn Carpenter 3, Austin Davis 2, Jordan Everett 3, Seth Glingle 0, Dane Kennedy 0, Blake Lemler 3, Marc Lindsey 3, Stephen Rowe 0, Clay Yeo 21. TOTALS: 24 16-17 69.
3-point goals: Culver 7 (Elliott 3, Bauer 2, Stevens 2), Triton 5 (G. Carpenter 2, Lindsey, Q. Carpenter, Everett); Total fouls (fouled out): Culver 13 (none), Triton 15 (none); Records: Culver 6-3 (2-1 NSC), Triton 8-3 (3-0 NSC).
JV score: Triton 34, Culver 27.