The two-time defending sectional champion Triton Central Tigers have lost 11 players to graduation from the pair of 13-win teams.
“We are definitely in a little bit different position,” admitted Triton Central head coach Kyle Ballard, 31-39 in his fourth season in Fairland. “We only have back three lettermen from last year and none of the five that started the regional game.”
Josiah Blair, Alex Crouse, Caleb Miller and Josh Kemper graduated while Jameson Palmer transferred to Morristown.
“We are definitely younger than we’ve been,” said Ballard.
The 2022-2023 roster features three seniors – Luke Faust, Isaac Morgan and Cooper Baugh. Combined, the trio averaged 12.5 points per game last season.
“We are going to rely on Isaac’s and Luke’s leadership a lot,” said Ballard. “Everyone else, we have to get caught up.”
Ballard admits the players, including two freshmen, are further along than he expected as the season opener Wednesday against Morristown looms.
Eli Sego, a five-foot, 11-inch guard, and Max Crouse, a 6-0 guard, will both see varsity minutes early in the season.
“It’s the first time I’ve started freshmen at the varsity level,” said Ballard.
The varsity rotation also will include juniors Jace Stuckey (6-4 forward) and Sam Kemper (5-11 forward) and sophomore Silas Blair (6-5 forward) and Taggy Goul (6-4 center).
“We have to get old fast,” said Ballard. “We had good opportunities in the offseason and the first couple of weeks of practice to simplify things and bring the young guys along.”
Morgan, a 6-0- guard, is TC’s leading returning scorer at 8.3 ppg.
“Isaac and Luke are both playing with a lot of confidence,” said Ballard. “Luke is shooting with a lot of confidence right now. I see real maturity in his game.”
Faust, a 6-3 guard, averaged 4.2 ppg last season in 22 games played.
As needed, Ballard believes he can add sophomores Sam Collier and Gavin Morgan and junior Garrett McElfresh to the varsity rotation.
The Tigers open with their traditional run through its county opposition with Morristown at home first followed by road trips to Shelbyville (Saturday), Waldron (Dec. 1) and Southwestern (Dec. 3).
“With the young kids, I don’t know how they will respond to situations when the lights come on,” said Ballard. “It feels like we are starting further ahead from the previous year because there is not as much new stuff each year. I feel good about the chemistry with this team. They feel pretty connected right now.”
For Triton Central to secure its first ever back-to-back-to-back sectional titles, it will have to go through last year’s regional champion – Eastern Hancock.
The Tigers are slotted into Class 2A, Sectional 42 this postseason with the Royals, 22-6 last season, Indiana Crossroads Conference rival Indianapolis Scecina (12-11 last season), Irvington Prep and Indianapolis Riverside.
“Eastern Hancock will still be really good,” said Ballard. “They are really experienced. They only graduated one or two primary guys from last year. It will be a challenge if we see those guys.”
Triton Central and Eastern Hancock will not meet during the regular season.
“It’s definitely a different looking sectional than we’ve had (at South Ripley),” said Ballard.
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