Triton’s Anthony Schuh (left) and Valley’s Riley Shepherd (right) battle it out for a rebound during Valley’s 63-46 victory over Triton Friday. Photos by Gary Nieter
Triton’s Anthony Schuh (left) and Valley’s Riley Shepherd (right) battle it out for a rebound during Valley’s 63-46 victory over Triton Friday. Photos by Gary Nieter
Despite the final score being somewhat lopsided, the Triton Trojans gave the Tippecanoe Valley Vikings a run for their money Friday night at the Trojan Trench. A two-point game in the fourth quarter, a last minute run by the Vikings was all the team needed to escape Bourbon with a 63-46 victory.

“They defended us well, didn’t give us any easy baskets,” Tippecanoe Valley head coach Joe Luce said after the game. “They were physical, aggressive and played one heck of a game.”

Losses by Manchester and Peru Friday night clinched the Three Rivers Conference title outright for the Vikings in Luce’s first season.

The first quarter was difficult to get through for both teams. Each side had problems of its own throughout the first few minutes but both shared the difficulty of putting the ball in the basket. For Valley, passes went through hands, put-back attempts after offensive rebounds missed the mark by inches and the team struggled to get around the tough defense Triton put in front of it.

The Trojans struggled to create space around Cole Shively, who was the focal point on offense once again for Triton. It didn’t matter how much contact the junior absorbed on his way to the cup, or what angle off of the backboard he tried using on layup attempts, Shively was a one man show for Triton in big stretches of the game. With the Vikings starting sluggish on one end, Cole used a personal 5-0 run to give his team its first lead of the night at 7-6. Shively finished his evening with a game-high 27 points.

“That kid is a special athlete,” Luce said. “Tayde Kiser is one of the most gifted defenders I’ve coached and Cole gave him everything he wanted. We tried double teams, shadowing him, everything in the book but he still got his.”

Valley would get that lead back and end the quarter on a high note moments later, as junior sharpshooter Riley Shepherd sunk his first three-pointer of the night in the final minute to give the Vikings a two-point advantage. Shepherd was dangerous from deep, specifically the left wing, all night long. He finished his night with three made threes and eleven points, all coming in the first half.  

Fresh off of the momentum-shifting bucket, Tippy Valley scored the first five points of the second quarter before another layup from Shively put a halt to the run. It was just the beginning of what would be a much better offensive quarter for both teams. A big three from Triton junior Jacob Pitney got the team closer while Triton’s lone senior Evan Briles started getting it going down low.

But on the other side, the combination of senior Nolan Cumberland and freshman Stephen Akase was too much. The two players complimented each other well, with Cumberland handling the ball outside of the paint and beating the home team either off the dribble with a mid range shot or a catch-and-shoot three. Akase, after shaking off a tough start, was a monster down low, using every inch of his 6’6” frame to grab boards with ease and get more than a few easy layups. Up by double-digits a few different times in the quarter, the visitors settled for a nine-point lead going into halftime. Cumberland led Valley with 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting while Akase finished with 12 and grabbed nine rebounds.

“He’s a young player and sometimes those young guys aren’t forgetful enough,” Luce explained after the game. “He’s figuring it out one day at a time and is playing some great ball.”

The third quarter featured more of the same from both sides. Valley would hit a few shots to extend their lead once more, Triton would answer with a couple to shrink it down again. Shively started getting some offensive help from his teammates, specifically Anthony Schuh, who had a nice game down low, using his physicality to create open looks at the basket. The junior scored nine points in the game. It looked as if no matter what Triton did, they were unable to get close enough to get a real crack at it. Until Shively beat the third quarter buzzer with a moon shot from three.

The last second heave lit a fire under the team and crowd, and suddenly the Trojans were alive in the fourth. Shively and Schuh would convert back-to-back and-one opportunities and suddenly Valley was clinging onto a two-point lead. In a hostile environment with all of the momentum on Triton’s side, the visitors answered the call. Spearheaded by senior Tayde Kiser, the Vikings ripped off a 14-0 run to separate once again and put the game out of reach for good. Kiser scored nine of his 12 points in the final quarter.

“We showed some urgency at the end. We were playing a team that was expecting to win and they gave us their best shot tonight. Our guys were able to bounce back and get the win,” Luce said.

Triton (11-9) has the rest of the weekend off before hosting Bremen Tuesday. Tippy Valley (17-4) also plays its next game Tuesday night, traveling to the Tiger Den to take on Warsaw.

“That’s going to be a great game. These kids have competed against Warsaw in plenty of sports but I know our guys are going to be hungry for a win,” Luce said.