By J.W. Campbell, Sportwriter
While the Triad boys basketball season ended with the Knights well below .500 mark, local fans can take comfort in the notion that their team was young this year and may have been going through some growing pains.
There was only one senior on the 2018-2019 squad, Jonah Ogden, who in his own way was new to the team, having transferred back to Triad after spending his sophomore and junior years at Metro-East Lutheran.
While the final record was not good, the Knights began on an encouraging note, going 3-1 in the season-opening Stovetop Stuffing Tournament, finishing second behind Taylorville in the five-team round robin tournament.
Triad went on to split the next four games and take a 5-2 record into the middle of December. Over the next six games, the Knights managed to play .500 basketball and sport a respectable 8-5 slate going into their final game of the Freeburg-Columbia Tournament.
From there on, things got problematic for Triad.
The Knights lost their final game of the Freeburg-Columbia Tournament to Columbia. Unfortunately for Triad, that marked the beginning of a nine-game losing streak that would plunge the Triad record to 8-14 and leave them permanently mired below the .500 mark.
Over the final eight games of the season, Triad would go 3-5 and finish with a 11-19 record.
On a more positive note, the Knights finished Mississippi Valley Conference play with a 5-5 record, finishing behind only Highland (28-5, 10-0) and Mascoutah (22-11, 7-3) in the league. The Bulldogs and the Indians both won their regionals and were slated to face each other in a semifinal game of the Mascoutah sectional on Wednesday, March 6. Results of that game were not available at press time.
Certainly, Highland and Mascoutah, along with Freeburg and Mt. Vernon, had an important hand in the Knights sub-.500 record. Those four teams combined to contribute eight losses to the Triad record.
As usual, Triad also faced its share of Southwestern Conference teams during the season, including Collinsville, East St. Louis and O’Fallon, losing to all three Class 4A schools.
Triad also had to contend with a lopsided schedule that featured far fewer home games than road games.
Of their 30 games, only nine were played in Troy and one of them was played outside of Rich Mason Gymnasium. That game was a retro night against Mascoutah on January 25 at the Triad Middle School.
Between December 21 and February 8, the team did not play on its home court at Triad High School.
Statistically, Triad was led by junior Luke Cox, who averaged 15.8 points per game for the Knights. Junior Nate Winslow was Triad’s second-leading scorer with 9.7 points per game, while Ogden averaged 7.8 tallies a contest. Other key contributors for Triad were junior Michael Tentis (7.1 ppg) and sophomore Sam Yager (5.9 ppg).
On a team that featured only modest height, the 6-4 Winslow and the 5-9 Yager tied for the team rebounding title with 5.2 boards per game. Cox, a 6-3 guard, pulled down 2.7 rebounds a game.
Looking forward to the 2019-2020 season, the Knights will return a number of players with extensive varsity experience, which will hopefully translate into more wins.
Those expected to return next year are current juniors Cox, Kyle Crook, Carson Milligan, Hunter Nelson, Tentis, Joe Wade, Jarod Willis and Winslow. Current sophomores with varsity experience include Cael Elmore, Wally Good, Drew Straub and Yager.
No freshman were on the varsity roster this year.
The Knights will also be able to draw on this year’s junior varsity team for talent. Under the coaching of Jeff Faulkenberg, the Triad JV team completed another winning season while getting most of its players valuable playing time.