BOURBON — Triton head coach Jason Groves is having mixed feelings about his team's tournament draw.
The Class A, No. 3 Trojans (16-3) drew one of two byes at the six-team Class A Sectional 50 at Triton, and they're scheduled to play the winner of Tuesday's tourney opener between South Central Union Mills (10-8) and Marquette Catholic (4-13) in a semifinal Friday with the winner going on to play the winner of another semifinal between Argos — which drew the other bye at the tourney — and the winner of Tuesday's quarterfinal between Oregon-Davis and Westville.
"I have mixed emotions about the bye," said Groves. "It's kind of nice when you only have to play two games to win the sectional, but on the other hand I think it's nice to get that game on Tuesday under your belt. Whichever team we'll have to play will kind of have that advantage with already playing in the sectional and getting comfortable with that sectional atmosphere. It's kind of a little bit of a give-and-take there."
On the other hand, if there's a team with enough big-game experience to forego round one of the tournament, it's Triton.
Griffyn Carpenter was part of Triton's state championship campaign as a freshman in 2007-08, and both he and fellow senior Austin Davis were with the team throughout the team's semistate championship season in '08-09. The Trojans are the three-peat Sectional 50 champions and two-year Bi-County champions, and they are veterans of several other big-time contests over the past several years as well.
"This is one year where getting the bye I think is good because we do have a lot of seniors that have been through this quite a bit so I'm not as concerned with this team as I would be if we were younger," said Groves. "These kids have seen every different type of atmosphere you can see pretty much. Griffyn and Austin got to play in the state finals their sophomore year and played in so many different venues. We played at Mackey Arena last year, we played at Grace College and played in the Bi-County championship the last two years so this is one year where I'm not quite as worried about that. I think we have a lot of kids that have experienced that atmosphere before."
It's precisely that experience — and the attendant success Triton has enjoyed over the past several seasons — that has instilled in the Trojans the kind of confidence that breeds further success. With their pride on the line at home, they know what's at stake, what it takes to win and how to do it.
"One thing these kids have always done is they expect to win, and I don't think it's going to be any different," Groves said. "They're going to expect to win the sectional, and I don't think they'll look past any of our opponents but I think they have the confidence no matter what game it is... that they feel like they're going to win. At the same time, you've got to prepare to win. I think this team understands and they're starting to understand even more towards the end of the season. I kind of sense that they feel the post-season coming up and they're preparing to put themselves in a position to win this so I like our chances just because of how our kids are playing and how hard they're working in practice to prepare themselves."