Plymouth-Triton has blossomed into full-blown rivalry

James Costello
Sports Editor

The annual matchup between Plymouth and Triton has blossomed into a full-blown county rivalry in recent years.
On Tuesday night, Plymouth handed neighboring Triton a reprisal for last year's 59-44 loss in Bourbon. The final margin wound up being 51-45, but, after a slow start by the Trojans, it was a one-possession game until, with just 4.6 seconds remaining, Plymouth's Reis Yoder split a pair of free throws following an untimely technical call on the Triton bench.
Both sides packed in plenty of fans to witness the spectacle, and it was another barn-burner between two storied programs.
It's an early-season game that both Plymouth coach Ryan Bales and Triton coach Jason Groves say they relish.
"Triton's going to bring fans. There's a great atmosphere. They come over here expecting to win, and they obviously showed that in our junior varsity game. Their kids show a lot of fight. They have a lot of pride in what they do. Their coaches, their fans, they do it the right way, similar to Plymouth," said Bales, in his fourth year at the helm of the Pilgrims program, after Tuesday night's contest.
"We have a lot of respect for Plymouth and their program, they've just been consistently good each and every year," echoed Groves. "We enjoy playing them. It's a fun game for us and a good measuring stick for us; it makes us better, and we respect that. Plymouth's a good team, and we wish them well."
Plymouth is 3-1 against Triton under Bales' stewardship, while Triton is an even 5-5 in the past 10 years as Groves begins his 10th full year at the helm of the Trojans.
But the series between now-Class 4A Plymouth and Class A Triton hasn't always been so even.
Overall, the Pilgrims boast a lopsided 48-7 win-loss margin against the Trojans. The series goes back to the Triton program's inception in 1963-64, after the consolidation of Bourbon, Etna Green and Tippecanoe. If you want to go back even further, Plymouth played each of those three schools multiple times prior to that, dating all the way back to the 1913 season. The Pilgrims' record against Bourbon stands at 46-16 — including a 77-61 win over the program in their final meeting in the Plymouth Sectional championship in 1962-63. Against Etna Green it is 7-2, and against Tippecanoe, it's 13-1.
The fact that the two programs have been so competitive over the past decade is something Groves prides himself on.
"I'm proud that this is a rivalry. I think before it was probably not," said Groves. "Plymouth would come over and pound us. So that says a lot about our kids and the dedication they've given to our program where people consider us coming over here to Plymouth a rivalry. Over the last 30 years, I'm not sure how many times we've beaten Plymouth, but I know we've beaten them three or four times over the last six or seven years."
Both Triton and Plymouth have histories of success.
According to the IHSAA, Plymouth has won a whopping 35 sectional championships, 12 regional titles, three semistate championships, and two state crowns — one under the single-class system in 1981-82 when Marshall County legend Scott Skiles dropped 39 points, including a 22-foot bucket that sent the game into overtime, and another in the Class 3A state championship in 2006-07.
Triton, meanwhile, owns 11 sectional championships, including six straight from 2007-08 to '12-13. The Trojans went on to win six regionals, four semistates and one state title in the program's first appearance at the IHSAA Class A finals in 2007-08.
Much of Triton's tournament success has come since the advent of class basketball in 1997 — 10 of the Trojans' 11 sectional championships and five of their six regionals were won after the advent of class basketball during the 1997-98 season, while all of their semistate wins came in the 1A tourney.
There's an old cliche in sports that success breeds success, and the bottom line is that Triton's recent run of championships has seemingly given the Trojans the confidence they need to compete with the Pilgrims. Both teams' players hit the floor expecting to win, says Bales, and that makes for some great basketball.
"Our fans came out tonight expecting to see a Plymouth victory, so when you have that — when you have two programs that both step on the court expecting to win, more than likely you're going to see a battle," he said.