By Josh Brown
NEW CARLISLE — When Tippecanoe’s offense struggles, it knows count on its defense.
The Red Devil girls basketball team shut down No. 11 Northwestern in the second round of the Division II sectional tournament, allowing only two first-quarter points and a total of three first-half field goals — all while using that defensive dominance to fuel their offense on the other end — helping top-seeded Tippecanoe cruise to a 54-20 victory Thursday night at Tecumseh High School.
Tippecanoe — which improved to 22-2 on the season and won its 11th straight — held Northwestern to 21.9 percent from the field, with the Warriors (8-15) going 7 for 32 in the game. And though the Devils were held below their average, entering the night scoring 60 points per game, they outrebounded the Warriors 33-23 and forced 22 turnovers — turning many of those into their easiest points of the night — while only committing 10.
“We’re just getting ourselves ready and back on the battlefield,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “Shots didn’t fall, we didn’t shoot the ball very well, but I felt like we did some other things well in the first half to get the lead. That’s one of the things we talked about — offensively, the ball may not go in the basket, but defensively you can always be solid and you can always rebound.”
And the main beneficiary of all of that defense on the other end was senior Maddie Frederick, who scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the first half, with many of them coming in transition after Northwestern turnovers. Frederick ended up single-handedly outscoring the Warriors and was the only player in double figures for either side on the night.
“We definitely struggled in the beginning a little bit getting shots to fall, but we got up on defense and played as a team,” Frederick said. “Claire (Hinkle), Cali (Stewart) and Hailee (Varvel) got some steals, and we were able to push the ball up the court, get into a rhythm and get shots towards the basket a little more.
“When we get up on defense, our defense fuels our offense, and it helps us get a rhythm going.”
For Frederick, the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division’s leading scorer during the regular season, it’s been a year of transition after she moved to Tippecanoe from Hamilton, Arizona — where she was part of Chandler High School’s state championship team as a sophomore.
“It’s definitely different, but the girls have been great,” Frederick said. “We’ve gotten closer over the course of the season. Now we’re just taking it game by game, working together and taking a family approach.”
And Frederick has fit right into the Red Devil family. Tippecanoe, which has finished as the regional runner-up the past three seasons in a row and returned four of the five starters from last year’s team, cruised through its second straight undefeated year in GWOC American North play and looks poised to make another deep tournament run. In the regular season finale, though, one of Tipp’s senior leaders, Allison Mader, went down with an injury and is out indefinitely — which is another thing Frederick is familiar with.
“I think it (her state championship experience) does help,” Frederick said. “And one thing happened — the year we won state, one of our starters actually got hurt and was out going into the tournament. Going in this year, we just have a family approach as a team and are taking it one game at a time.
“(Mader’s injury) was horrible to watch, but I think we’ve grown together even more and are doing it for her now. We’ve gelled, and we’re hoping to get as far as we can — maybe far enough where she can play a game or two.”
And Thursday night was special, as well, as it was the first time Mader was back with the team — even if it was in street clothes, supporting her teammates from the bench.
“It was (nice to have her back),” Frederick said. “She got back to school on Tuesday, and it was good to see her walking around. Even just having her around makes everything better. Allison’s persona just makes us all smile. We’re excited to have her back.”
Tipp certainly got off to a slower start Thursday night than its tournament opener against Belmont, where the Devils scored the game’s first 66 points and shut their opponents out in the first three quarters. After making a defensive stop, Northwestern’s Kyndall Berner scored on a drive on the Warriors’ first possession to put Tippecanoe down 2-0.
That deficit didn’t last, though. A free throw by Frederick and a pair of free throws by Brooke Aselage gave the lead to the Devils, then Frederick stole the ball and hit Aselage for a fast-break score. That was merely the beginning of 22 unanswered points by the Devils as they took a 14-2 lead after one, and a 3 by Stewart at the halftime buzzer gave Tippecanoe a 28-7 lead.
Frederick and Stewart each hit 3s in the third and a pair of Hinkle steals led to layups, one by her and one by Frederick, and the Devils led by 30, 42-12, heading into the fourth. And with 6:08 remaining, a 3 by Mackenzie Smith gave Tippecanoe a 35-point lead at 49-14, turning on the running clock thanks to the OHSAA’s mercy rule, new for the tournament this season. Northwestern had a pair of possessions with an opportunity to get back to within 30 and turn the running clock off, but the Devils’ reserves came up with defensive stops each time and put the game away.
Frederick added three rebounds and three assists to her 23 points, Stewart had eight points and four rebounds, Varvel had seven points and three assists, Aselage and Rachel Wildermuth each had four points, Smith had three points, Chloe Schretzman had two points and six rebounds and Kendall Clodfelter scored one point.
Amerika Goad and Miranda Gillman each scored five points to lead the Warriors, Audrey Nourse and Rachel White both scored three and Bry White and Berner each finished with two.
“We were catching the ball and not hesitating. That’s been our motto all year — if you catch the ball and you’re in rhythm, you’ve got to let it go,” Holderman said. “Maddie was able to knock down some shots for us tonight. But again, it’s just a process.
“We’re getting ourselves better. Are we where we want to be? I don’t know. But we’re surviving each game. And at this point, as long as you win a game by at least one, then you can move on to the next game.”
That next game is the sectional championship on Tuesday, where Tippecanoe will face Kenton Ridge — a 42-40 winner over Springfield Shawnee — at 7:30 p.m. at Tecumseh.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU