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Regional rumble

By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

SPEEDWAY — Six three-pointers in the first quarter. Three more in the second. After Winchester caught fire again Saturday, there was little Triton Central could do in the Speedway Regional final.

Storming out to a 12-0 lead (four threes) with 5:30 to play in the opening frame, the Class 2A No. 4 Golden Falcons, who entered the tournament with two losses, came out confident. They continued their aggressive style of play and would finish the first half the same way in a 56-32 win. After nailing two more shots from deep in the first quarter, the team would take an 18-9 advantage into the second.

Eighth-ranked Triton Central would pull within three points with 3:22 left before halftime, holding Winchester scoreless for approximately six minutes of play. A three from TC sophomore Rylie Stephens made the score 21-18, but it would be as close as the Tigers would get.

The Golden Eagles, behind three treys from sophomore guard Becca Chamberlin, closed the half on another 12-0 run to give the team a 33-18 lead at the break. Triton Central would hang tough in the third quarter but scored just two points in the fourth, ending its season 21-5 with county and sectional championships.

“I told the girls after the game, (Winchester) just beat us,” said TC head coach Bryan Graham, who earned his fifth sectional title in 10 years with the program. “Even when we took away the big girl on the inside, their guards stepped up and hit shots. They played a great game, and I was very impressed with their girls. Sometimes you just get beat.”

The Tigers opened the regional with a convincing 65-40 win over South Putnam, who also won a sectional title last season. Freshman forward Tenleigh Phelps, who scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds in the first game, finished with 12 points and seven boards in the second.

Winchester, which is also rather young like TC, had enough size, shooting depth and defensive ability to hold off the Tigers after the offensive explosions from distance in the opening half.

“(Triton Central) is very well balanced and has a heck of a player in (Phelps),” said WC head coach Holly Gutierrez, who previously coached at Pendleton Heights. “We thought that was going to be tough to defend. They also have quality guards who can shoot. I thought our kids did an outstanding job at stopping their drives. We tried to limit them to one shot and take our time.”

Gutierrez is 57-20 in three seasons with the school.

Golden Eagles sophomore guard Madeline Lawrence, who is listed at 6’0 on the roster, controlled the pace for Winchester (25-2) and finished with a game-high 21 points. She added five rebounds and made three 3-pointers. WC finished the game 12 of 20 from behind the arc. Chamberlin made six threes for 18 points.

For Triton Central, which made three total field goals in the second and third quarters, senior Bella Cooper finished with six points and five rebounds in her final game as a Tiger. Senior guard Haley Schneider made a three and classmate Rynisha Holly added two points and five rebounds.

“All three brought a certain aspect to the program and all three knew their roles well,” Graham said of his seniors. “They did it above and beyond. When you watch them grow up, it is great to see them on and off the court become great ladies. Those three girls should be the poster children for those who are more about winning than individual stats or awards. They just wanted to win.”

Against South Putnam, sophomore guard Maya Chandler added 17 points and five rebounds to help TC earn a comfortable win before the nightcap. Stephens, who played junior varsity the entire season but was cleared for the postseason tournament, added seven points and four rebounds. Freshman center Bailey Stamper led the rebounding effort in limited action with seven.

“We did a very good job of pressuring them on defense and getting the ball inside-out on offense,” Graham said. “We did a good job of establishing that early. When shots fall or passes get through, it makes the coaching looking really smart.”

Triton Central started the year 9-0 and remained in the state rankings for the entire season. The team’s largest defeat prior to the Winchester game was a 13-point loss to New Palestine, which fell to 4A No. 1 Pike in its regional contest Saturday. The Tigers won the Shelby County Tournament before finishing second in the Indiana Crossroads Conference (6-1).

Phelps, Chandler and Schneider were named All-ICC. Chandler was runner-up in the player of the year voting.

Cooper, Schneider and Holly will graduate, but Triton Central returns at least nine players who received varsity experience – at one point or another – this season. Phelps (14.8 ppg) and Chandler (15.2 ppg) led the team in scoring.

“It is hard to replace what we are losing, because those girls are so good,” Graham said. “We have 17 of 20 coming back and 14 were underclassmen this year. We are looking forward to the offseason. Of our 17 girls returning, 14 of them play a spring sport, and I encourage them to do so.”

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.