With the shear amount of seniors lost to graduation the last two seasons, it would seem natural that Triton Central would be in a rebuilding mode following back-to-back sectional championships.
Halfway through this season, Triton Central sits at 8-3 with a cast of players more concerned about team success than individual glory.
“I’m not much on predictions, but I don’t know if I would have had us with eight wins right now,” admitted Triton Central head coach Kyle Ballard. “So far, the kids have done a really good job. We are ahead of where I thought we would be. We knew we were good enough to win games but we’ve embraced the challenges along the way.”
Triton Central is pushed by seniors Luke Faust and Isaac Morgan, who combine to average 27 points and 5.6 assists per game. Ballard likes how the seniors know when to sit back and get the rest of the team involved and when it’s time for them to take over.
“When things get a little bit hairy, when games are close we can lean into those guys to make a play – whether it’s for them or for somebody else,” said Ballard. “The seniors let the young guys be young guys at times. They can shoulder the pressure and let the young guys play off of them.”
Triton Central opens the 2023 Shelby County Tournament Friday in the second game at Morristown against the host Yellow Jackets – a team it defeated 61-26 in the season opener for both teams on Nov. 23.
“Anytime you play twice (in a season), the second time is always different,” said Ballard. “We are two different teams from back in November.”
Morristown (1-10) has lost nine straight games since its win over Southwestern on Nov. 26, 60-59 in overtime.
While Triton Central lost five players to graduation after last season, it also lost Jameson Palmer, who transferred to Morristown. The senior is leading the Yellow Jackets in scoring, rebounding and steals.
The first county tournament semifinal Friday pits Southwestern against Waldron, the defending county tourney champions.
Despite having much of its roster intact from the 2022 season, the Mohawks (5-5) have struggled to find offensive consistency despite having one of the program’s career scoring leaders and another chasing 1,000 career points.
Bryce Yarling (photo, right), who hit the game-winning shot in the 2022 Shelby County Tournament championship game, is currently fourth on the boys basketball program’s career scoring list with 1,119 points. He needs 20 more points to surpass Jordan Barnard for third all-time.
Lucas Mitchell (photo, left) sits at 799 career points while averaging 20.8 ppg this season. At that pace, he could join Yarling in the 1,000-point club in mid-February.
Southwestern (0-10) continues to search for the first win for new head coach Chris Ingels. The Spartans struggle offensively with just one player – Matthew Clements (10.8 ppg) – averaging more than 6 ppg on the roster.
Waldron defeated Southwestern, 56-31, on Dec. 17.
Triton Central enters the tournament with possession of the Victory Bell (photo), the county’s traveling trophy. The Tigers reclaimed it from Waldron on Dec. 1, 63-48.
The Shelby County Tournament championship game is Saturday at 8 p.m.
Shelby County Tournament
Site: Morristown High School.
Friday’s Semifinals: Southwestern (0-10) vs. Waldron (5-5), 6 p.m.; Triton Central (8-3) at Morristown (1-10), 8 p.m.
Media coverage: 5:30 p.m. pregame show live from the Bee Hive at Morristown with Johnny McCrory and Jason Parker on GIANT fm (96.5 fm, 106.3 fm, 1520 am) or on the GIANT fm app.
Head coaches: Chris Ingels, 0-10 in 1st year at Southwestern; Beau Scott, 29-29 in 4th year at Waldron; Kyle Ballard, 39-42 in 4th year at Triton Central; Cory Kreiger, 1-10 in 1st year at Morristown
2022 champion: Waldron defeated Southwestern, 60-47, and Triton Central, 51-50, to win the Shelby County Tournament and gain possession of the Victory Bell.
Sagarin ratings: Southwestern, 30.00; Waldron, 49.26; Triton Central, 69.60; Morristown, 34.70.
MVP candidates: Southwestern’s Matthew Clements (10.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg); Waldron’s Lucas Mitchell (20.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.3 spg) and Bryce Yarling (11.8 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.4 spg); Triton Central’s Isaac Morgan (15.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.5 apg), Luke Faust (12.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg), Eli Sego (9.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and Silas Blair (7.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Morristown’s Jameson Palmer (14.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Wyatt Marcum (10.8 ppg, 3.2 apg).
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