Trojan junior Cole Shively made it look easy driving to the rim Wednesday night, getting more than a handful of his game-high 23 points in the paint. Triton lost 50-49 to Argos in their sectional opener. Photos by Gary Nieter
Trojan junior Cole Shively made it look easy driving to the rim Wednesday night, getting more than a handful of his game-high 23 points in the paint. Triton lost 50-49 to Argos in their sectional opener. Photos by Gary Nieter
BOURBON - With one loss holding the power to end a team’s season at this stage of the year, games are going to be hard fought and difficult to win. Wednesday’s sectional matchup between Triton and Argos at the Trojan Trench was no different. After 32 minutes of ties, lead changes and all sorts of drama, the Dragons were able to escape with a 50-49 victory after Triton’s final shot went just an inch too long.

“I told them in the locker room that it might have been an up and down year, but these guys played a heck of a basketball game tonight,” Triton head coach Jason Groves said. “Obviously losing stings a bunch but it makes it a little bit easier of a pill to swallow when you go out giving your best effort.”

The Trojans were able to feed off of their home crowd in the game’s opening minutes, scoring five straight points after giving up the first point of the game at the free throw line. Argos wasn’t going to let the game get away that easily though, answering with an 11-2 run that saw the Dragons sitting pretty in the driver’s seat early on. The home team on the scoreboard made life incredibly difficult for Triton with its use of the entry pass. Argos was able to string a few easy possessions together with passes from the top of the key down to a soft spot in the paint. After what felt like a layup line of a fourth quarter, Argos held a 14-10 advantage. Triton’s only offense stemmed from a couple of threes by Jacob Pitney and layups from Cole Shively.

The Dragons continued to exploit the Trojan defense in the opening minutes of the second quarter, knocking down open shots and making the most of their opportunities in the paint to jump out to a nine-point lead. Not fond of the idea of a first round exit in their own gym, the deficit awoke something in Triton, specifically Shively. Outside of a layup by Anthony Schuh in the opening minute of the second, every other Trojan point in the quarter came off of the hot hand of Shively. It didn’t matter if it was an acrobatic layup or a contested three, once the junior got it going, he couldn’t miss. The guard poured in eleven points in the quarter, fifteen in the half, including a jumper from the elbow with a second left in the half to shrink the Dragons’ lead to just two points as the teams headed for the locker room. He’d account for 23 in the game to lead all scorers.

“These guys kept playing, kept grinding,” Groves said. “We did a nice job getting after it and getting back into the game.”

The third quarter was a showcase of what playoff basketball is all about. With both teams engaged in a tight game and not willing to give an inch, the game was tied on four separate occasions throughout the period. Triton would score a basket to tie the game up and Argos would respond on the other end to take the lead right back. After his second quarter outburst, the Dragon defense would not allow Shively much space in the third. Supporting players like Dante Workman and Evan Briles would make the most of the extra space they were afforded, carrying the offensive load for a majority of the period.

“Dante does so much for us. It might not always show up in the stats but he has gotten so much better as the season has gone on.”

 The back and forth affair would go on for close to eight minutes before Schuh grabbed an offensive rebound on a Shively free throw attempt. The second chance points that would follow resulted in Triton’s first lead since the first quarter and a two-point lead heading into the fourth.

However, Argos would not go away. The Dragons were able to regain control of the game on the offensive glass, grabbing what seemed like almost every rebound on their end of the court before putting it back up for easy second chance points. With the Trojans offering little resistance on defense, Argos was able to regain the lead with about five minutes to go in the game.

Not ready to give up without a fight, the next five minutes contained some excellent play from Triton. Being deliberate in every decision, the Trojans were able to methodically find open looks and used those to stay in the game. Their only problem was that on the other end, Argos’ leading scorer JJ Moris had woken up. Moris had an answer for every made shot Triton scored on the other end, keeping his team in front in the process.

“They put us in a tough spot defensively, either going man to man on him and letting him bully his way to the basket or going box-and-1 and letting other guys get open,” Groves said. “Credit to them.”

With the Dragon lead never getting above three in the final three minutes, many possessions seemed like the one in which the Trojans were going to get over the hump. The contest culminated with the Trojans having the ball with ten seconds left and trailing by one. With everybody in the gym knowing where the ball was going next, Shively was still able to get a good look off as time expired. His elbow jumper would barely miss off of the back iron and move Argos forward to the next round.

“We obviously wanted to get Cole the ball, it was the play we wanted,” Groves said. “They did some quick switching of their defense but we still got a good look at the basket there, it just didn’t fall.”

Triton graduates one senior this season, Evan Briles. The rest of the Trojan team will be back next season.

“We’re hoping this was a learning experience, something that lights a fire under the guys,” Groves said. “We want these guys to not want to feel this feeling again, and I know this group can be special if they put their mind to it.”