Playing with a depleted backcourt Triton Central still managed to build a double-digit lead and then staved off a North Decatur rally Friday to advance to the South Ripley sectional championship game, 62-57.
Triton Central’s victory in the sectional semifinal came despite missing the services of starting point guard Alex Crouse (illness) and backup sophomore guard Levi Dewey (concussion protocol). (Crouse's availability for Saturday's championship is unknown as of this posting)
The Tigers built a double-digit lead and sustained it during most of the middle quarters. After a 9-9 first quarter, Triton Central took a halftime lead to the locker room, 29-18. Triton Central still led by 11 after three quarters, 45-34.
A big catalyst for the Tigers was the offensive play of a junior getting his first varsity start. Jameson Palmer averages 2.4 points / game. He scored 15 against North Decatur to tie teammate Caleb Miller for team-high scoring honors.
Triton Central head coach Kyle Ballard.
Triton Central (12-11) had two other players in double-figures. Josiah Blair scored 13 points, 11 in the second half. Josh Kemper added 11. Six of those came in the final quarter.
The Tigers suffered without Crouse and Dewey while trying to get through the final minutes. Triton Central was plagued by ball handling miscues, dangerous passes and turnovers that turned into North Decatur points. A Kaden Muckerheide driving layup and free throw for a three-point play brought the Chargers back to within three late in the fourth before the Tigers managed to run out the clock.
Free throw shooting cost the Tigers a few times this season. Triton Central was 7-for-22 in a county championship loss to Waldron. Even in the regular season overtime loss at North Decatur on December 18, the Tigers missed the front end of a one-and-bonus that was followed by a North Decatur offensive rebound and putback with a foul that forced the overtime session.
But that wasn’t the case in the sectional semifinal. Triton Central shot 6-for-8 in the final period and 15-for-20 at the free throw line for the game.
North Decatur (13-11) was led in scoring by shooting guard Blake Spears 20 points. 15 came in the second half. 6’5” junior Lance Nobbe scored 17.
Up next for Triton Central, the host South Ripley Raiders (13-10). South Ripley defeated South Decatur in Friday’s first semifinal, 61-44.
Coach Ballard says he sees a lot of similarities.
GIANT fm Sports will have live coverage of tonight's Triton Central - South Ripley sectional championship game beginning at 7:00 pm. It is a 7:30 pm tip-off in Versailles.