By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TIPP CITY — While being capable of playing at a fast pace, the Tippecanoe girls basketball team knows how to keep its cool and slow things down when need be.
Troy, another young team, is still learning that lesson.
Tippecanoe — which had already clinched its third straight Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title — looked polished and composed during a rivalry matchup against Troy, forcing the Trojans to play in a hurry and make mistakes then capitalizing on those miscues in a 46-32 victory Wednesday night at Tippecanoe High School, the Red Devils’ fifth straight.
And even though the stakes were low — Tippecanoe’s 39-game division winning streak had already come to an end at the hands of Trotwood on Jan. 24, but the Devils (16-5, 13-1 GWOC American North) still wrapped up the outright title last week before the sectional tournament draw, which is also already set in stone — the play was no less fierce than the first meeting between the teams this year, a hard-fought 45-43 win by Tippecanoe on Dec. 15, 2018 at Troy.
This time, though, the Devils’ maturity and skill on defense after 21 games made the difference.
“We knew they had two good guards and a good post, and at this point in the season, you’ve got to be able to take things away from people,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “The first time we played them, we just let them do their thing. Tonight with trying to get the ball out of their hands with the double-team and denying it back, I think we did a pretty good job on them defensively tonight.”
And offensively, the Devils showed they’d learned their lesson from that 37-35 loss to Trotwood — which is also a potential tournament matchup for fourth-seeded Tippecanoe in the second round of the tournament after its first-round bye.
“Obviously, teams are going to try to speed you up, and you’ve want to keep from going 100 miles per hour,” Holderman said. “You may have to speed up a little bit, but you also have to slow yourself down. Teams like Trotwood try to get you sped up and get you to take hurried shots and get you to do things you’re not comfortable doing. As we mature, I think we’re starting to now realize that we need to play our game, back it back out, take our time and do our thing and we’ll get a good look.”
It’s a lesson that Troy (13-7, 9-5 GWOC American North) learned the hard way Wednesday night.
“We are just in a big rush. We played at 100 miles per hour, and we needed to play at about 35,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “It’s not from a lack of wanting to do well, either. It’s just a little bit of composure, definitely a lack of experience and understanding that desire to make plays can still be done at 35 miles per hour. We made an average of two to three passes per possession, if that, while Tipp made 12 and ended with layups.
“That experience that Tipp has and the maturity of that team, we’re not at that point yet. We have moments, but we just don’t have that consistency.”
A lot of that had to do with the Devils’ defense, though, which forced 14 turnovers and twice as many of those fast, ill-advised shots that came too early in possessions.
“Again, I want to give credit to Tipp. It’s not like we beat ourselves — they beat us,” Johnson said. “Their ball pressure (sped us up) all night. Defensively, they were able to totally get us out of rhythm and out of sync, and we got frustrated with that. We talked before the game about time of possession, about how our best defense was going to be our offense, but if you charted time of possession tonight, we probably had seven minutes and they probably had 25. That’s one of the things we’re trying to do a better job of, playing possession basketball. And we’re just not there yet.”
Troy actually held a 7-5 lead late in the first after a Tia Bass putback, but Ashleigh Mader hit her second 3 of the opening quarter to give the lead back to the Devils and kick off what ended up being a 13-0 run that put Tippecanoe up 18-7 midway through the second. Macie Taylor hit a pair of 3s, though, including a half-court buzzer beater to get Troy back to within 25-16 at halftime.
Troy got as close as seven points at 27-20, but Kendall Clodfelter stole the ball and dished to Katie Salyer for a fast-break finish, then Clodfelter set up another 3 by Mader after a lengthy possession to make it a 12-point game, and the Devils led 35-24 after three — and 12 was as close as Troy got from there.
“That’s something we’re focusing on against zones, taking our time with it and passing the ball. That’s how you beat zones — get the ball moving,” Holderman said. “We always tell the girls that if you’re open and in rhythm and on balance when you catch the ball, you need to shoot it. We had a couple different people step up tonight, and we got some inside buckets, too. If you can score from inside-out, life’s good for you. And we took care of business on the defensive end tonight, too. The last two games, I think we’ve played our best defensively, and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
Mader led all scorers with 16 points for the Devils, hitting four 3s, while Clodfelter added 14 points and seven assists. Brooke Aselage added six points and eight rebounds, helping Tippecanoe outrebound Troy 30-24 on the night, Salyer added four points and four rebounds, Rachel Wildermuth had four points and Jillian Brown had two points and four rebounds.
Macie Taylor had 12 points and five rebounds and Bass added 10 points and eight rebounds to lead the way for Troy. Morgan Kaiser scored four points, Laura Borchers and Lauren McGraw each had two points and four rebounds and MaKenna Taylor had two points.
“I think we can play with anybody, but we’re not going to win games in spurts,” Johnson said. “We have to put together all four quarters. And against a team the quality of Tipp, we definitely have to play 32 minutes of solid, quality basketball. I think we were just trying too hard. We’ve got to watch this tape, see the difference between the two teams, see the pace at which they played and watch how we were a little too fast and sometimes a little too erratic.”
Troy returns home Saturday to face rival Piqua before traveling to Covington Monday to finish the regular season. Tippecanoe, meanwhile, closes out the regular season at home against Butler Saturday.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.