BOURBON — When the 101st IHSAA State Basketball Finals convene at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this weekend, only two of the eight teams will be making their first appearance.
Among the remaining six, half have made the trip more than once in the past decade. Triton will take the floor for a remarkable third time in just four years as the veteran Trojans (23-3) tip off against first-timer Indianapolis Metropolitan (21-6) in the Class A final at 10:30 a.m.
“I’ve had good kids,” said Triton head coach Jason Groves. “I’ve been extremely blessed with some athletic, talented kids, and you don’t see that too often in a 1A school. I think that first group really set the table. We had some really good kids in that first group that worked hard and kind of showed these kids how to win and set the standard in work ethic and what it takes to be successful.
“Not to be cliche, but success breeds success. It showed the following year — nobody really expected us to do anything. We lost four of our five main guys, and that group just refused to lose. They thought they were going to win every game.”
Triton’s recent run of success has been special, and, as with nearly all championship programs, the team has relied heavily on its seniors to accomplish its 94-11, four-peat sectional championship and three-time semistate run. This year’s senior cast includes five players in Griffyn Carpenter, Dane Kennedy, Austin Davis, Jordan Everett and Blake Lemler, and the Trojans will be relying on their upperclassmen once again as they try and capture a second Class A crown against the scrappy Pumas this weekend.
“It’s going to be fun. Our senior leadership — they’ve been there twice, so I’m kind of leaning on them,” said sophomore forward and team second-leading scorer and co-rebounding leader Clay Yeo.
“Im going to help Clay and my brother (Quentyn) and the younger guys get through this; this is their first time playing there so they’re going to have some nerves, but hopefully me, Austin, Jordan and Blake can help calm those,” said Carpenter.
Davis and Everett were both with Triton’s varsity squad the last time the team ventured down to Conseco in 2009.
“To be going down there three times in four years is great and especially this year. This is our senior year, and I think this is what all of us seniors have always dreamed of,” said Davis. “It’s basically just a dream come true.”
Everett can remember when it all started back in 2007-08 — when his older brother Jake also won the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award — as the Trojans made their first-ever state appearance and earned the school its only boys basketball state championship with a 50-42 victory over Indianapolis Lutheran.
“It means a lot following him, watching him my freshman year and then the same thing next year with Colton Keel and that group,” said Everett. “It was fun, but now it definitely means a lot more. This is my senior year; this is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
While Davis and Everett play in their second state title game Saturday, Carpenter will be making his third appearance on Indiana High School basketball’s biggest stage.
The crafty 6-1 guard/forward was brought up from Triton’s JV just prior to the Trojans’ state championship run in ‘08, and he’s taken on an increasingly important role with the team ever since, setting a new career scoring record for the team in the process. It’s been a memorable run for Triton and Carpenter, and he’s hoping he can end his high school career on a high note Saturday.
“It’s Conseco Fieldhouse, the climax of basketball, what everyone in the state of Indiana plays for,” he said. “There’s just no better way to go out than to be at Conseco. It’s like bookends. I started out with that championship and hopefully we’ll end up with one Saturday. It’s a great start to the story and also a great end to the story.”