The sky was the limit for Triton Central senior Aiden Lindsey.
The leading returning scorer for a veteran squad that captured its first sectional title in nine seasons was primed for a breakout year to showcase his skills and get him to the next level.
As a junior, the six-foot, five-inch forward was a proven scorer, rebounder and facilitator with the goal of averaging a double-double as a senior while improving his assists average as well.
Triton Central started the season 4-0, defeating all four Shelby County opponents by an average of 22 points per game.
COVID-19 protocols kicked in for the basketball program and the Tigers arrived at Greenfield-Central on Dec. 8 with two starters out and two more varsity players unavailable. Lindsey was on the floor, though, just not for very long.
On a fast-break opportunity, Lindsey jump stopped to prepare to shoot and his left knee gave away.
“I got the ball maybe off a steal. I had the ball up toward the 3-point line,” he explained. “It was a fast break and it was me and a kid. I drove in and jump stopped right about the volleyball line and right when I jump stopped and went back up my knee gave out and I felt a pop.”
Lindsey had been dealing with a cranky knee throughout the summer and figured it was something similar.
“The pain didn’t go away,” he lamented.
Lindsey never returned to the court this season. He partially tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in the knee, slightly tore the meniscus, tore his anterior cruciate ligament and fractured a bone in his knee when the bones collided.
“I had my hopes up when I went to the doctor initially because they didn’t think it was the ACL,” said Lindsey. “I kept thinking it will be fine … it will be fine.”
Triton Central went into a tailspin as it tried to get healthy from COVID-19 and playing without Lindsey, who was averaging 15 ppg. The Tigers lost four straight going into the Shelby County Tournament where it was the defending champion.
Triton Central could not repeat, falling to Waldron in the championship game. Three straight wins followed including a 49-33 victory at Milan on Jan. 15, the day Lindsey had surgery to repair his knee.
Lindsey quickly returned to the bench to assist in any way possible.
“He is such a good teammate throughout this whole process,” said Triton Central head coach Kyle Ballard. “He is such a good leader. The kids have so much respect for him and his voice. He brings another set of eyes and if he wants to coach, he will be a great coach.”
The Tigers stayed competitive in the Indiana Crossroads Conference standings until late-season losses to Ritter and Beech Grove dashed any hope of winning an ICC title. The team closed the season with four losses in its last six games.
All the while, the team was learning.
Triton Central surprised North Decatur, 62-57, Friday night to return to the sectional championship. Starting point guard Alex Crouse did not travel with the team due to illness but junior Jameson Palmer, averaging less than 4 ppg, stepped up and scored 15 points in the win.
In the championship game against South Ripley Saturday, the Tigers fell behind early to a hot-shooting squad but never wavered. A 10-0 run gave TC the lead in the fourth quarter and its experience took over down the stretch to produce a 40-35 victory.
“I really just think it was learning to play together more,” said Lindsey of his team’s struggles this season. “This summer, our offense was more like a lot of people trying to do their own thing. And it starts on defense. Our defense was the best it’s looked all year in that last game.
“That translates to a win. I think it’s just learning to play together is how we got back to the regional.”
TC regional preview at https://shelbycountypost.com/sports/623936
That sectional title meant a return trip to Greenfield-Central where the Tigers lost to Parke Heritage in the 2021 regional semifinal round and the site of Lindsey’s season-ending knee injury.
Triton Central and Lindsey traveled to Greenfield Tuesday for a team practice.
“It was weird because it seems like only bad stuff happens there,” said Lindsey. “We lost the regional there. And the knee, obviously. It was good going back there for a good reason. Hopefully, we will have more good memories there.”
Lindsey is in the toughest portion of the rehabilitation process now two months removed from surgery. He is walking normally and feels great.
“It feels like a normal leg at this point,” he said. “It feels normal. Obviously, this stage of the recovery is terrible because I feel like I can do everything. It’s also the most important part of the recovery because you have to get stronger.”
There is a larger goal ahead. Lindsey wants to fuel his competitive fire playing at the collegiate level. The options would have been plentiful with a strong senior season. Now, he only has four game films as a senior to entice college coaches.
“Coach Ballard has reached out to a lot of schools,” said Lindsey. “And it’s hard with just four games of film but he said there is a lot of good stuff in that and stuff from last year which will help a little bit I guess.”
Lindsey is entertaining the idea of going the junior college route to get immediate playing time.
“We will see who takes a chance on him,” said Ballard. “A couple of schools have some interest.”
Lindsey is considering a Political Science major with law school possibly in his future. There is always coaching as well since the injury has forced him to see the game from a different perspective.
“It’s so fun being around the sport. I don’t think I cannot be around it,” he said.
On Saturday, Lindsey will be where he has been much of the season, in a coaching role trying to help his teammates succeed.
“I am learning my teammates more. I am learning their mindsets more,” he said. “I am thinking how can I help the team? How can I produce points? How can I produce help on defense?
“Now I am learning what is going through my teammates’ heads because I talk to them like a coach.”
A coach the Tigers value input from because they know how much he wants to be on the court, in uniform, helping them out.