By Tim Lima
An auspicious beginning gave way to a disappointing conclusion as Triton basketball became its own worst enemy as the season progressed.
A 9-11 record in its 2012-2013 season, Triton wasn't thrilled with the result but was optimistic about what stood ahead. A team with more experience and better-developed talent was set to take the court and Triton head coach David Clay felt that it could be a special year.
While this year's campaign began with an 0-2 beginning, tides seemed to be quickly turning on a program for the better. After responding to meet its first two losses with two consecutive wins, a highly anticipated match up at Newburyport stood on the horizon for Triton.
“I think it was really our only true win this year,” Clay said. “It was the one game that everyone was going to do whatever it took to win and they put everything on the line. I don't know if, at any point the rest of the season, they got back to that place where they had something to prove. They played hard the rest of the year, but I don't know if they put their whole self into another game.
“When you get too high, the only place to go is down, but I think it was more than that. To me, that was the one game they really looked forward to and were mentally prepared for. If they lost that game there would've been a lot of upset kids in the locker room.”
The Vikings went on to a 47-38 win. While it was the moment of the season for Triton, it was simultaneously the start of its downfall.
“We were just too high at that point and we didn't know how to respond,” said junior center Ellsworth Rogers. “We had never beaten (Newburyport) before and our experience showed after that game.”
What followed was six straight losses, culminating with a disappointing result at the TD Garden against Bishop Fenwick. A game that Triton led and controlled for much of its majority was lost with sloppy fourth quarter play and a plethora of turnovers.
Just two days later, the Vikings pulled out a one-point victory against Amesbury, which would be its final win of the season. After eight straight losses to finish the year, including five straight games with under 40 points, Triton would finish with a 4-16 record.
“There are things that I can't account for if the kids' hearts aren't there, and if they're not willing to listen to the coaching staff,” Clay said. “There was a lot that went in to our downfall this year with kids not listening. We need a leader and someone to take accountability for this team. We need a player-driven team where the kids hold each other accountable and we didn't see that this year.”
Because of the heavy workload that stands ahead, Triton has wasted no time in turning the page to next season. Cam Armand and Ellsworth Rogers, captains for next season, have led the way in the organization of off-season training regimens.
“We have a 20-game spring league schedule already set up,” Clay said. “I have four of the five varsity starters playing in a spring league and they're really devoted to getting better. They want to win. The captains themselves, Cam and Ellsworth, have taken on the responsibility of organizing it and getting the team together. They seem to be taking an ownership for the team and their players.”
If Triton's entire team returns for next season, the Vikings will have 10 seniors – far and away the most of any local program. Because of this, there is a tempered excitement about next season and what it may hold.
“I know that we can be really special, but we are trying hard to stay grounded at this point,” Rogers said. “We have to work to eliminate turnovers because that killed us this year and we have to play better as a team.”
But when it comes to expectations, it is difficult at this point to set any.
“I honestly thought that after our 9-11 record last year, we were coming into this year more talented. It's hard to say what next year has in store for us.”