By Josh Brown
TROTWOOD — Tippecanoe girls basketball coach Andy Holderman knew his Red Devils had been in a funk lately. He just wasn’t sure why or what to do about it.
Allison Mader and the Devils found the solution — play together.
“I think that this game particularly was our best team game all around,” the senior said. “Just people making the extra pass and knocking down shots when we needed it, the energy, the high fives, the team spirit — everything was very team-oriented today, and everyone stepped up when they needed to.”
And it couldn’t have come at a better time, either.
Facing Division II’s third-ranked team on the road at Trotwood, Tippecanoe — ranked No. 9 in the state in D-II coming in — dominated the glass from the second quarter on, connected on every open shot and held the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s leading scorer 12 points below her average, pulling away in the second half for a 60-45 victory over the Rams.
The win made Tippecanoe 13-2 overall, 9-0 in the GWOC American North Division and was the 24th straight GWOC American North win for the Red Devils, who went 15-0 and won the division title last season in their first year in the league. The loss, meanwhile, dropped Trotwood to 11-2 overall, 8-1 in the GWOC American South, and snapped a 6-game winning streak for the Rams.
It also snapped Tippecanoe’s two-game losing streak in Saturday games — the Devils had previously lost 54-53 at D-III state-ranked Versailles on Jan. 6 and 57-38 to Springboro last week at the Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament.
“We’ve kind of been in a funk, and we didn’t know what it was … but we finally played well on a Saturday,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “We did a great job, in the second quarter in particular, going from a good shot to making the extra pass for a great shot, and we were able to knock those down. When teammates are sharing the ball with other teammates, it’s contagious.”
Trotwood was able to get first-quarter 3s from Kellah Flucas and Sha’mya Leigh and held a lead as big as five at 14-9, but Maddie Frederick hit a 3 for the Devils and Mader was fouled with no time on the clock, hitting a free throw to cut the lead to 14-13 after the first eight minutes. And in the second, the Devils took over the glass, outrebounding the Rams 12-3 in the quarter — both limiting Trotwood to one-shot-and-dones on defense and collecting second- and third-chance points themselves on the offensive end — scoring the first eight points of the quarter to finish off a 12-0 game-changing run.
“We decided to rebound,” Holderman said. “The whole key today was being able to rebound the basketball. We figured if we could rebound, we’d give ourselves a chance, and if we could withstand their pressure on the offensive end, we like our chances.
“Specifically, McGruder, we knew she is an incredible rebounder,” Mader said. “She crashes the boards. Going into the game, we all committed to rebounding as hard as we could on every shot. There were a lot of times that we’d get tips, but just to get her off the boards was key for us. It’s all mental toughness. We just went in knowing that energy and rebounding was key for us.”
McGruder — who led the GWOC with 26.1 points per game coming in — was held to only two first-half points and four rebounds thanks to the Devils’ aggressiveness on the offensive end. Mader had 14 points by halftime and Frederick had 10, and the Devils held a 37-21 lead at the break after outscoring the Rams 24-7 in the decisive third quarter.
“She got in some foul trouble,” Holderman said. “She’s definitely a high-quality player, and that was a key, as was rebounding. Limiting them to only a few second shots, that’s where their strengths are.”
Tippecanoe kept pulling away in the second half, too, building a 20-point lead at 45-25 after a bucket inside by Brooke Aselage and taking its biggest lead of the game with a backdoor layup by Mader at the buzzer that made the score 51-28 going into the fourth. The Ram defense turned up the intensity on its full-court press — which helped McGruder score eight of her team-high 14 points during the quarter and bring Trotwood back to within 14 at 56-40.
But Tippecanoe broke the press and got a three-point play from Aselage to widen the gap again with 2:30 to play, and the Devils ran out the clock from there.
The Devils did commit 16 turnovers against that press in the game, but the Rams weren’t able to turn those into easy transition points like they have all season. And Tippecanoe outrebounded Trotwood 35-27 for the game and was 16 for 23 from the free throw line to help put it away.
“Luckily, this group basically played all together last year,” Holderman said. “We understand big games, and this was a huge game as far as looking at tournament seedings. And it was one that we felt we did a pretty good job. We were prepared for everything they threw at us. We knew we’d make mistakes, but we just couldn’t let one mistake turn into two or three or four, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that. The girls executed.”
Mader finished with 18 points, going 8 for 9 from the free throw line in the game, and added three assists, while Frederick also scored 18 points and added 13 rebounds for a double-double and had four assists. Aselage finished with eight points and eight rebounds, Cali Stewart had seven points and seven assists, Chloe Schretzman and Claire Hinkle each had four points and Kendall Clodfelter had one point.
McGruder finished with 14 points and eight rebounds to lead the Rams, Myla Barnes scored nine points, Leigh and Flucas each had eight, Mercedes Woodward had four points and seven rebounds and Goddess McIntyre scored two points.
And for the Devils — who have been ousted by the Alter Knights in the regional championship game the past three straight years — the high-profile victory against one of the region’s best was just what the doctor ordered.
“It feels amazing,” Mader said. “And it was fun. This was our best team game of the year, and it feels really good to win. We’ve hit some lows lately, but now we’re moving up, and that’s what we need. Especially since this is such a big game for the tournament (seeding). This was a huge win to get us going.”
Tippecanoe travels to Carroll Monday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.