By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe found itself adjusting its goals for the season after Saturday night’s game.
But it also can use what happened during the game to prepare for what it will face later.
In a battle for the outright lead in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division, visiting Tecumseh took control in the second quarter thanks to its dominance on the offensive glass, building enough of a lead to slow the game down and chew the final four minutes off the clock to hold on for a 57-48 victory over the Red Devils Saturday at Pat Wampler Gymnasium.
Both teams entered the game tied atop the Kenton Trail with 6-1 records, with the Arrows (16-3, 7-1) having defeated the Devils (13-4, 6-2) 66-48 back on Dec. 9, only to lose to Kenton Ridge — which Tippecanoe swept — 81-76 on Jan. 14. But after Saturday’s loss, the Devils’ first at home since Feb. 8, 2014, Tippecanoe now needs either Stebbins or Bellefontaine to upset the Arrows and to sweep its own final two division games for any hope of sharing the title.
“It’s frustrating, sure, that we didn’t get to the top of the league,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “But it is what it is, and we can use it as a learning tool. We’re playing to make a tournament run now, and hopefully we can use this as a learning tool.”
After Sammie Rowland banked in a 3 to make it a six-point game at 52-46 with 3:52 remaining, the Arrows went into slowdown mode, taking advantage of Tippecanoe’s foul trouble and forcing the Devils to choose — either change personnel on the floor or risk going for steals and having starters foul out to get the ball back.
“When they slowed down the game and spread us out, we were in a little foul trouble — and it put us in a little bind,” Holderman said. “At that point, we’ve got to make some attempts to attack the basketball and hope for some turnovers. They’re a good ball-handling team, though.”
The Devils only were able to force one turnover during those final four minutes, and Tecumseh went 5 for 8 from the free throw line — and, more importantly, kept the Devils from scoring on the defensive end, allowing only a pair of Allison Mader free throws the rest of the way.
It was something the Devils can likely expect to see again in the postseason.
“It was nice that they did that. If we’re playing for a tournament run, that’s a situation we could be in again,” Holderman said. “Hopefully, we can learn from this.”
Tippecanoe held control early, though, taking an 18-15 lead after one quarter thanks to its aggressiveness toward the basket. The Devils went 7 for 8 from the free throw line in that opening quarter — but in the second, when Tecumseh was able to get a few stops on drives without committing fouls, the Devils began to back off and settle for jumpers.
The Arrows, meanwhile, took over the glass, outrebounding the Devils by double digits in the second quarter. Lindsey Nartker played the biggest role in that, scoring 10 of her 12 first-half points in the second quarter — six of them coming on putbacks. Tecumseh led by as many as eight in the quarter, but a 3 and later a jumper by Taylor Prall cut the Arrows’ lead to 34-28 at the half.
Nartker finished with a game-high 20 points, nine rebounds — most of those coming on the offensive end — and four blocked shots as the Arrows outrebounded the Devils 29-21 in the game.
“Obviously, rebounding was the key to the game tonight,” Holderman said. “If you don’t rebound, you don’t deserve to win. They did a nice job of going to the glass and getting to all the 50-50 balls. It just didn’t seem like the ball bounced our way at all tonight, and we didn’t do a good job of making breaks for ourselves.”
Tecumseh led by as many as 13 in the third after a three-point play by Danielle Franklin, but a layup by Rachel Rusk at the buzzer made it 50-39 entering the fourth. A free throw by Rusk and another Prall 3 got the Devils to within seven early in the fourth, and a 3 by Rowland made it 52-46 midway through the quarter — setting up the Arrows’ demonstration of clock management to close out the game.
Prall kept the Devils in the game, scoring a team-high 16 points and hitting two of the team’s five 3s, while Rowland hit two more 3s and added eight points and three assists.
“With Taylor, after a year removed, she’s still getting back into it (basketball),” Holderman said. “She’s growing with every game and getting more confident. It’s nice watching her develop.”
Mader added seven points, going 7 for 8 from the free throw line, Kelsey Wertz added seven points, Rusk had six and Aubrey Cox had four points and eight rebounds.
Franklin had 14 points and four rebounds for the Arrows, Corinne Thomas had nine points, Presley Griffitts added eight points and five rebounds and Caroline Smith scored six points.
The Red Devils host Bellefontaine Wednesday
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.