Triton senior Ashton Oviedo looks to score while driving to the basket against Dylan Kindig of Argos during the first quarter.
Triton senior Ashton Oviedo looks to score while driving to the basket against Dylan Kindig of Argos during the first quarter.
BOURBON – The Triton Trojans’ and the Argos Dragons’ postseason paths crossed again – for the fourth consecutive year, in fact - in the Class 1A sectional title game in the Trojan Trench Saturday night. Argos won the first two title battles in 2019 and 2020. Last night, however, the Triton Trojans hoisted sectional championship hardware for the second consecutive year after a 45-39 win over the Dragons.

Defense was the key to the Trojans’ victory. The sectional champs held Argos to 37% shooting (14-38), and the Dragons only landed 2 of 15 (13%) attempts beyond the 3-point arc. Senior guard Tyson Yates frustrated opposing ball handlers by snaring 3 steals. Argos entered the contest averaging 52 points offensively.

“Great effort from these guys,” Triton head coach Jason Groves said. “We thought we could defend these guys. We came in this morning, we watched film for, like, two hours… but we really broke (Argos) down, and our kids did a really great job defending.”

The Trojans toughest challenge for the evening was Argos’s height advantage. Four Dragon starters ranged 6’2” to 6’6” while Triton started a squad with the on-court optics of four guards and 6’2” sophomore Cole Shively, a scrappy, speedy, undersized power forward with an exceptional vertical leap.

The Dragons kept the contest close with their advantage hitting the offensive boards, outrebounding Triton 11-3, and picking up 14 second-chance points. Argos grabbed 29 total caroms compared to Triton’s 18.

The sectional hosts countered Argos’s size using their superior first-step acceleration driving the lane past their foes for inside buckets instead of firing away from 3-point range.

“I knew we had some quickness advantages in certain spots,” Groves said. “I told them we have to move the ball and get to the basket… we just can’t pass once and try to dribble through people.”

Argos opened the game with an 8-7 first quarter lead, then maintained leads ranging from one to four points before Yates, hoisting a 3-pointer whose accuracy made up for its lack of beauty, gave Triton the lead thereafter, 18-17, with 2:04 remaining in the first half. Yates further fueled the crowd’s energy with a steal and layup, and the Trojans headed to the locker room on top 20-17.

The Dragons took advantage of Triton’s 3-point shooting futility during the first four minutes of the third period to close within two points, 28-26 when Yates led the Trojans back to the evening’s ingredient for success, sinking a turnaround fadeaway on the left baseline from behind the backboard to reset their attack, and continue toward a 32-28 third quarter lead.

Shively scored two straight buckets in the fourth quarter to move Triton to its biggest lead of the night 38-30. The first of his two buckets came from a streaking layup off a crisp outlet pass after a steal by Bruce Johnson. The two teams traded buckets and free throws until the final buzzer signaled the 45-39 Triton victory.

Argos’s 6’6” junior forward J.J. Morris led the Dragons (17-6) with 16 points blending mid-range jumpers with inside scoring. Jake Stults (7 points), Dylan Kindig (6 points), Michael Richard, and Teddy Redinger (5 points each) accounted for all the Dragons offense in their final games of their high school careers.

Yates (13 points), Shively (11 points), and Ashton Oviedo (10 points) led Triton (18-7). The squad hit 14 of 43 from the field for 44%, and 15 of 22 free throws (68%). Their ball security greatly improved from Friday’s 19 turnovers to Saturday’s 8 miscues.

The sectional champs’ usual statistical leaders had help from role players, an ingredient with elevated postseason importance. Cole McKinney, who scored four points, staved off Argos’s final attempt at a comeback with less than a minute left in the game hustling to chase down his own missed free throw for a crucial offensive rebound.

“Right now, I think our kids are playing well together,” Groves said. “They’re realizing what their role is and filling that role.

“Caden Graham could be a starter, but he comes off the bench and brings in some energy to do a lot of things for us. Chandler (Westafer) and Connor (Large) didn’t play a lot, but they came in and gave us a great effort when we needed them.”

Triton will stay put in the trojan Trench to host the regional Saturday. North White (21-3) and Class 1A top-ranked Gary 21st Century (21-4) will battle in the 10 a.m. opener followed by the Trojans and Fremont (17-8), one of six Northeast Corner Conference teams who won at least 14 regular season games.