Kyle Ballard has a plug-in-and-play mentality for a Triton Central program fresh off its seventh boys basketball sectional title – and first in nearly a decade.
“We go into every year with the goal of being a championship basketball team … winning county, conference and sectional titles,” said Ballard, 18-27 going into his third year in Fairland. “Last year, we felt we had a team that could accomplish those things. We know the end goal now. We are approaching everyday as a stepping stone to putting ourselves in that position again.”
Triton Central finished 13-9 a season ago and grinded out a 62-60 win over Milan and 66-65 win over South Decatur to earn its first regional appearance since 2012.
At the Greenfield-Central Regional, the Tigers struggled to get in gear and lost to Parke Heritage, 47-30.
Graduation took David Steele (13.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Erick Hebauf (4.8 ppg, 3.1 apg), Caleb Anderson (6.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and Jaxson Miller (5.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) from a balanced unit. Steele is currently playing college basketball at Manchester University in northern Indiana and Hebauf left Triton Central with the career assists record.
However, Triton Central had seven players average at least four points per game last season.
Senior Aiden Lindsey (11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is the leading returning scorer. Also returning to the rotation will be seniors Josiah Blair (3.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg), Josh Kemper (5.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Caleb Miller (2.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg) and Mason Krebs (1.8 ppg).
Senior Alex Crouse (2.4 ppg, 1.4 apg) takes over the point guard duties from Hebauf. Sophomore Levi Dewey also will see varsity minutes this season.
Ballard also has a pair of Franklin Central transfers to work into the playing equation in juniors Isaac Morgan and Luke Faust.
“We lost some valuable parts but I feel good because we played 10 guys a bunch last year,” said Ballard. “We’ve got some experience, just maybe players in a different role.”
Triton Central opens the regular season Wednesday at Morristown in a girls-boys varsity-only doubleheader. The Tigers’ home opener follows Saturday when Shelbyville visits Fairland.
The December schedule begins with home games against Waldron and Southwestern.
“It’s a good measuring stick to get going,” said Ballard of playing all four county rivals to open the season. “We are a team with a target on our back with the success we had last year. So we will see how we stack up early.”
Triton Central opens its Indiana Crossroads Conference schedule against Cascade on Dec. 17. The Tigers close out the 2021 portion of the schedule with a trip to Franklin County for a holiday tournament on Dec. 22 and a home game Dec. 30 against Heritage Christian.
The Tigers will defend their Shelby County Tournament title beginning Jan. 7 at Waldron High School.
The final nine games of the regular season feature two potential sectional opponents and six ICC games.
“Our three conference losses last year were to the three teams that finished in front of us,” said Ballard. “Our conference is as hard as they come for a (Class) 2A basketball team. The kids are hungry for (a conference title) … it’s the one thing they didn’t get last year.”
Triton Central’s only back-to-back sectional titles came in 1997 and 1998. Ballard hopes March’s regional experience will drive this year’s group to a repeat performance.
“There will be some pretty competitive sectional games this year,” he said. “Now we’re experienced after winning county and sectional titles and playing in a regional. It never hurts to have kids back that have been in the fire.
“Maybe we will be more prepared this time for the regional. I know we’re all better for getting there and having experienced that together.”