By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — Entering Friday’s game at Butler, the Troy boys basketball team had been right there but had been unable to find a way over the hump — until they did that night.
Tippecanoe found itself in the exact same place Tuesday night. And this time, it was the Red Devils’ turn to find their way.
Four Red Devils reached double digits and combined to hit eight 3-pointers as a team while forcing 24 Trojan turnovers, building a lead as big as 24 points then hitting free throws down the stretch to halt a late Troy run in a 70-56 victory Tuesday night at home — Tippecanoe’s first of the season.
The win was also the first for the Devils as a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division, as they improved to 1-4 overall and 1-3 in division play.
“We’re just trying to figure out who we are and play to that,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Visser said. “Last year, we had size, but we don’t have that this year. We’ve had to up the tempo and get a little more creative, but our stamina has been great. That’s why we were able to come back against Versailles and Sidney. We’ve been right there — lost by seven to Sidney, four to Piqua and seven to Greenville. Tonight, we finally turned a corner.”
The Trojans, meanwhile, regressed after picking up their first win of the season at Butler, falling to 1-3 overall and in the GWOC American North.
“I thought we played well in the Vandalia game, but we just didn’t play the way we should tonight,” Troy coach Paul Bremigan said. “We just didn’t take care of the basketball. We have got to do a better job of that.”
Tippecanoe took a small edge early in the first and then answered every Troy basket from there. A 3 by Caiden Smith gave the Devils a 5-4 lead and an Adam Grieshop fast break layup and Quenten Williams jumper made it a five-point game. Troy’s Ryan McClurg ended the run with a drive, but Smith answered with one of his own. McClurg then canned a long 3 to cut the lead to 11-9, but Ben Sauls raced back and hit a 3 for the Devils. After another McClurg 3, Sauls drilled an answer at the buzzer to make it 17-12 Tippecanoe after one.
“Troy’s a rival from right down the road, and we talked about that a lot over the last few practices,” Visser said. “We shot the ball well tonight, and I thought that covered up some of the mistakes we made.”
In the second quarter, the Devils forced more mistakes than they made.
McClurg kicked the quarter off with a 3 to bring the Trojans to within two again at 17-15, but Zach Bonifas responded with a 3 on the other end. After Troy closed to within 20-17, Josh Wildermuth hit a jumper, Sauls took in a steal for a layup and Smith hit a 3 after another Trojan turnover to make it a 10-point game. Zach Reichelderfer scored a putback to end the run, but the Devils ran off nine straight to close the half, including a 3 at the buzzer by Smith to make it 36-19 at the break.
Troy committed 10 of its 24 turnovers in the second quarter and opened the third by giving it away on its first three possessions, and another Bonifas 3 gave the Devils their biggest lead of the game at 50-26 midway through the quarter.
“Some of those mistakes were unforced, though,” Bremigan said. “We just didn’t do a very good job all around. We’re learning — but we don’t have time. We’ve got a game every three days. You don’t have time to sit back and work on something for a week. We’ve got to be ready by Friday night.”
The Trojans still had fight left, though.
Troy closed the third on a 10-2 run, including a five-point swing in the final 10 seconds of the quarter thanks to Hayden Kotwica. Kotwica converted a steal with a layup with less than five seconds remaining, then he intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass and nailed a 3 at the buzzer to cut Tippecanoe’s lead to 52-36 heading into the fourth.
A 10-1 Troy run in the middle of the fourth quarter cut the lead to single digits. McClurg hit a 3 then cashed in a steal with a layup, then Keenan Kinnel scored inside after a Tippecanoe free throw to make it 59-47. Another Devil turnover led to a three-point play by McClurg, and the Trojans only trailed 59-50 with 1:42 to play.
With Troy forced to foul to get the ball back, though, Tippecanoe — which hadn’t taken any free throws in the first three quarters — went 12 for 18 from the line in the fourth and got enough stops on the defensive end to rebuild the lead and win by 14.
“We hit our shots early, got the lead, then had six turnovers in the third quarter,” Visser said. “I think we got a little complacent. Down the stretch, we got back in it and knocked down some free throws. I thought we played three good quarters tonight and got off track in the third.”
Smith led Tippecanoe with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists and Bonifas had 15 points. Sauls, a freshman, scored all 12 of his points in the first half and added seven rebounds, Grieshop had 11 points and seven rebounds, Williams had three points and Josh Wildermuth and Cade Gingrich each had two.
“It’s good to get our first win,” Visser said. “Especially against a team as good as Troy, one of our GWOC North rivals. This group of kids just keeps grinding in practice. We felt like we’ve been ready for every game but we just haven’t been there, but tonight we were.”
McClurg scored a career-high 23 points and had five rebounds to lead Troy, while Reichelderfer added 14 points and four rebounds. Kotwica chipped in eight points and eight rebounds, Eli Palmer had five points, Keenan Kinnel and Zach Boyer each scored two and Josh Browder and Devon Larger each scored one.
Both teams finish off their first run through GWOC American North play on Friday, with Troy hosting rival Piqua and Tippecanoe hosting Butler.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.