LAKEVILLE — Last week’s snow-outs forced Clay Yeo to wait two extra days to break the 1,000-point barrier.
No big deal, breaking the mark at the Bi-County championship just made it that much more special for the Triton junior.
Yeo put up a season-high 39 points to complement 10 rebounds and four assists, including 22 of Class A No. 5 Triton’s last 24 points, and the Trojans held off a scrappy New Prairie challenge to earn their third straight title in a 68-66 championship thriller at the 47th annual tournament championship Monday at Dale E. Cox Gymnasium at LaVille.
“It’s great. It’s been on my shoulders for awhile now, I’ve been wanting to score 1,000,” said Yeo. “I’m glad I got it tonight in the championship game.”
“To be honest with you I didn’t even know he had 39,” said Triton Head Coach Jason Groves. “That’s the type of player he is; you don’t even notice it. It’s quiet. I would have thought it would be high 20s, but he’s just so subtle. He does it within what we try to do so that’s the nice thing about it. It’s not like he’s shooting 50 times a game. His field goal percentage is outstanding on the year. He’s just a great player and fortunately I’m reaping the benefit of that.”
Yeo surpassed the 1,000-point mark and then some to move to 1,035 and into third place on Triton’s all-time career list. Despite zeroing in on the milestone, the 6-6 combo player seemed more concerned with getting his teammates involved in the first half Monday, putting up just 14 points of his game-high tally before the break.
But with New Prairie playing neck-in-neck with the repeat champs following a 19-9 second quarter run, the tourney MVP took over.
His triple from the wing with 2.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave Triton a tentative 51-47 advantage headed into the final frame after four lead changes in the quarter. His pull-up floater in the lane with 4.1 seconds on the game clock clinched the win for the Trojans when Noah Shail’s 3-point attempt from the corner clanged high off the rim as time expired, and the Triton bench spilled onto the floor to celebrate the nip-tuck victory.
“I thought he was being a little bit passive in the first half, and I told him be aggressive,” said Groves. “I told him this is the way they’re going to play us, they’re going to get up in us and force the action so be aggressive and take it to the basket, get to the free throw line. I thought he did a nice job.”
“All of us were hitting in the first half so I was trying to distribute to my teammates and get everyone going,” said Yeo. “But when it comes down to it and we stopped hitting and the shots just didn’t fall I had to take the ball in my hands and take it to the basket.”
Although Yeo’s heroics were easily the MVP performance of the night, several Trojans made big plays to keep Triton on top at the tourney.
Point guard Zak Shively dished out a game-best seven assists — including several backdoor lobs to Yeo — and continued to produce solidly in the score column with 13 points. Sophomore guard Tanner Shepherd finished with nine points, all earned before the break as the Trojans grabbed leads as big as 11 points in the first half. Junior reserve Drew Mosson’s steal near the time line for a breakaway bucket by Yeo at the 57-second stop of the fourth snapped a 7-0 run by the Cougars to knot the game at 64-all before a pair of Shively free throws and Yeo’s game-winner gave Triton its third straight Bi-County title in as many years following a long hiatus from the tilt.
“A lot of kids did a nice job. Shively made some big plays, Drew Mosson with that big steal there at the end. It was a nice team win, I thought,” said Groves.
It was a disappointing finish for New Prairie, which saw its Bi-County championship dry spell extend to 40 years with the loss, which featured six ties and seven lead changes.
While Triton converted at a better than 59 percent clip from the floor following the team’s 61-percent conversion rate against John Glenn in the tourney semifinals Saturday, the Cougars were even better, going 29 of 44 from the field for 66 percent efficiency while giving the Trojans all they could handle.
Junior guard Zach Rehlander put up 16 points while handing out five assists, several of them inside to senior post player Kyle Brammer, who tallied a team-high 20 points earned at a near perfect 9-for-10 rate patrolling the blocks for the Cougars.
“They’re a good team. Credit them for not quitting fighting,” said Yeo. “They’re just great guys. We had it in us. Coach called a time out and said they’re not going to give up, and we just had to grind it out.”
• TRITON 68, NEW PRAIRIE 66
At Lakeville (Bi-County championship)
Score by quarters
New Prairie: 15 34 47 66
Triton: 22 35 51 68
TRITON (68): Clay Yeo 14 9-11 39, Zak Shively 5 2-5 13, Jackson Downing 0 0-0 0, Bryson Mosier 0 0-0 0, Tanner Shepherd 3 3-5 9, Seth Glingle 1 1-4 3, Cody Shively 1 0-0 2, Drew Mosson 1 0-0 2; Totals: 25 15-25 68.
NEW PRAIRIE (66): Jasen Webb 0 0-0 0, Zach Rehlander 7 2-4 16, Tyler Szynal 1 0-0 3, Mitchell Mrozinski 3 0-1 6, Aaron Bladecki 1 0-0 3, Austin Ginter 2 0-0 5, Matthew Winter 4 0-1 8, Noah Shail 1 0-0 3, Derek Scott 0 0-0 0, C.J. Kowalski 1 0-1 2, Kyle Brammer 9 4-12 20; Totals: 29 4-11 66.
3-pointers: Triton 3 (Yeo 2, Z. Shively), New Prairie 4 (Szynal, Bladecki, Ginter, Shail); Turnovers: Triton 13, New Prairie 16; Rebounds: Triton 20 (Yeo 10), New Prairie 21 (Webb 5, Mrozinski 5); Steals: Triton 7 (Z. Shively 3), New Prairie 8 (Rehlander 2); Assists: Triton 14 (Z. Shively 7), New Prairie 12 (Rehlander 5); Fouls (fouled out): Triton 17 (C. Shively), New Prairie 25 (Webb).
Records: Triton 11-3, New Prairie 9-5.