LAFAYETTE — Triton’s boys basketball team emerged from semistate action bloodied, battered and bruised, but most important, unbowed and unbeaten.
Triton sophomore Clay Yeo, fouled on his way to the basket, sank a pair of tie-breaking free throws with 32.8 seconds left in overtime, and the Class A No. 2 Trojans survived for a 44-42 semistate championship win over Rockville at Lafayette Jefferson’s Crawley Center Saturday.
“It was physical,” Triton head coach Jason Groves said. “(Rockville) got after us, and we knew they would. I think they frustrated us. We got some turnovers and had opportunities to finish and didn’t. They worried us, but our kids prevailed in the end. That’s what it’s been this year; they refuse to lose.”
Triton (23-3), riding an 18-game winning streak, marches to its third state finals appearance in four seasons next Saturday when it faces Indianapolis Metropolitan (21-6) at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Trojans split their first two trips to Indianapolis, winning in 2008 before coming up short two years ago.
“It’s been different each year,” Groves said. “The first time was the first team from our program to go to the state finals; they laid down the foundation. The second year nobody expected them to do anything, and it was just about them persevering; they overachieved. This group this year just finds a way to win. These seniors have been great to us. They’re a special group, and that’s what it takes to build a program.”
In a game dominated by defense, the Trojans, who forced 22 turnovers, delivered one last stand following Yeo’s clutch free throws.
Rockville called timeout with 15.3 seconds left in the extra session, and with the perimeter covered went inside to forward Zac Kempf. Defended in the post, Kempf retreated to the right corner where he launched a 3-point try – his only deep attempt of the game – that kicked long.
“We tried to run a double stagger to Gary (Ulrich) on ballside for a 3-pointer,” Rockville head coach Dave Mahurin said. “We ran that earlier in the fourth quarter, and it worked. (Triton) had that covered, and when we reversed it, (Kempf) rolled to the perimeter. I probably should have called another timeout, but he’s hit that shot before, and I don’t have a problem with him taking it.
“What we wanted to do if we couldn’t get the ball to Gary was to try to get it to the rim,” he added. “But the kids take what they see, that’s what they saw, and we lost. I thought we battled. We lost in overtime to probably the best team in the state. I’m really proud of them.”
Triton senior Jordan Everett, scrapping for the rebound, laid enough of a hand on the carom to knock the ball away and time expired.
“When I saw the ball wasn’t going to go in I was thrilled because I knew we were going to win,” Everett said. “It’s overwhelming. It’s awesome.”
That set off a raucous postgame celebration following a contest that featured nine ties and eight lead changes and a largest edge of six points, and that came for Triton in the opening frame. The game stayed so tight that Triton led 23-22 at halftime, with the score deadlocked at the ends of the other three quarters.
“I don’t want to say this is better than the other two, because any trip to the state finals is great, but it’s more meaningful for me as a senior,” Triton senior Griffyn Carpenter, who carried the Trojans’ offense with a game-high 23 points, said. “Offensively we turned the ball over too many times, so we had to rely on our defense. Our guys stepped up when we needed them to.”
The Trojans gave themselves a chance to win in regulation. After Rockville’s Lane Mahurin split a couple of charity tosses to knot the score at 40-all with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter, Triton spread the floor, ran clock, and held for the final shot.
Following a stoppage with 10.4 seconds to go, Yeo took the ball at the top of the key, looked left, drove right and misfired on a 17-foot fadeaway jumper.
“We wanted Clay to catch and penetrate,” Groves said. “We had Griffyn in the post and Jordan in the corner. We wanted Clay to go left, and then if he needed to, dump down to Griffyn or kick out to Jordan. He got forced to his right, and that disrupted the play since the play was set up to go left. They did a good job defending that play.”
Meanwhile, the Trojans overcame foul trouble and injury against the physical Rox. Senior post man Austin Davis, as well as Everett and Yeo spent time on the pine with fouls, leading to extended minutes for Zak Shively, who dished out a team-high four assists, Blake Lemler, and sophomore Seth Glingle, who saw just mop-up time during the sectional and regional.
On the injury front, Triton sophomore guard Quentyn Carpenter left midway through the third frame with a cut above his left eye and returned in the fourth quarter with a long bandage across his lower forehead.
“So far, this tournament has been the story of the bench,” Griffyn Carpenter said. “Zak, Blake, and even Seth came to play. We wouldn’t be here without Zak, Blake and Seth playing strong off the bench.”
In addition to Griffyn Carpenter’s game-leading point total, Yeo chipped in 10 points, six boards, and four steals from the point of Triton’s 1-3-1 zone trap. Davis added nine points, highlighted by a pair of backdoor lobs from Shively, before fouling out with 1:28 left in the fourth frame.
“When I fouled out I thought this could be my last game,” Davis said. “Thank God my teammates stepped up, and we get another chance. Hats off to Rockville. They’ve got a solid team.”
For the Rox, 6-foot-6 sophomore Lane Mahurin scored 18 points and ripped down a game-high 10 rebounds. Kempf added 10 points and seven rebounds, and Tyler Bradburn handed out five assists.
CLASS A SEMISTATE
TRITON 44, ROCKVILLE 42 OT
Score by quarters
Rockville: 13 22 31 40 42
Triton: 13 23 31 40 44
ROCKVILLE (42): Lane Mahurin 8 2-5 18, Tyler Bradburn 1 0-1 2, Kyle Wheeler 0 0-0 0, Cody Jeffries 0 0-0 0, Gary Ulrich 3 0-0 9, Joel Wittenmyer 1 0-0 3, Zac Kempf 4 2-3 10. TOTALS: 17 4-9 42.
TRITON (44): Griffyn Carpenter 8 4-4 23, Clay Yeo 3 4-6 10, Zak Shively 0 0-0 0, Quentyn Carpenter 0 0-0 0, Austin Davis 4 1-1 9, Jordan Everett 0 2-2 2, Seth Glingle 0 0-2 0, Blake Lemler 0 0-2 0. TOTALS: 15 11-17 44.
3-point goals: Rockville 4 (Ulrich 3, Wittenmyer), Triton 3 (G. Carpenter); Turnovers: Rockville 22, Triton 16; Rebounds: Rockville 33 (Mahurin 10), Triton 26 (Yeo 6); Assists: Rockville 10 (Bradburn 5), Triton 8 (Shively); Steals: Rockville 9 (Bradburn, Ulrich, Wittenmyer 2), Triton 10 (Yeo 5); Fouls (fouled out): Rockville 16 (none), Triton 15 (Davis); Records: Rockville 21-7 (final), Triton 23-3.