By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Lately, the Tippecanoe girls basketball team can’t be called fast starters — but the Red Devils certainly know how to finish.
”I don’t know what it is about our first-half performance, but we’ve got to do something to get them jump-started. Our second halves are fantastic, though,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said.
Saturday, Tippecanoe rode a nine-game winning streak into Troy, which entered the day on a six-game winning streak of its own. And while the Trojans were able to keep pace early, a big fourth quarter by senior Kendall Clodfelter helped the Devils put away a 50-41 victory at the Trojan Activities Center and clinch the Miami Valley League Miami Division championship outright.
Tippecanoe improved to 16-4 overall and 16-0 in the MVL Miami, three games up on second-place Butler with only two left to play. And while the Devils closed out their fourth straight division championship and first in the new league, Troy fell to 11-8 overall and 10-6 in division play.
“First off, I’m proud. We’ve come a long way,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “We came in on a six-game winning streak. Tipp is on a four-year league winning streak. And that experience makes a difference.”
And that experience showed for the Devils in the form of Clodfelter. With Troy only trailing by three at 31-28 entering the final quarter, the senior kicked off the fourth by banking in a 3-pointer, the first of three 3s for her in the last eight minutes.
Clodfelter finished with 12 of her team-high 19 points in the fourth to help the Devils pull away and added eight rebounds and five assists — both also team-high totals.
“That bank 3 started us off. Normally, someone banks one of those against us,” Holderman said. “We used the bank to jump-start her, and she had a big fourth quarter for us.”
Another key for the Devils was finding a way to contain Troy senior center Tia Bass — who was coming off of a 21-point, 20-rebound performance in the Trojans’ previous game. Saturday, Bass was held to four points, five rebounds and two blocked shots, only attempting three field goals in the game and spending most of it on the bench in foul trouble.
“Defensively, we made the decision to keep her from getting the ball in the post, because when she catches it, she’s pretty good at finishing,” Holderman said. “So we tried to eliminate that opportunity for her to get the ball, which forced other people to do things.”
“In Tia’s defense, she’s trying to shoot with three girls all over her,” Johnson said. “I think their gameplan was to double-team Macie and double- or triple-team Tia and make them kick it out and find other people. And we didn’t have the answer to it. We had an answer from time to time, but we didn’t have the answer.”
Still, Macie Taylor was a solid answer for the Trojans.
The sophomore point guard had 17 or her game-high 28 points in the first half, including the buzzer-beating jumper that tied the score at 19-19 at halftime.
“We went in at halftime and made the adjustment, because she had 17 of their 19 in the first half,” Holderman said. “So we thought ‘well, whenever she gets the ball, we’ll run at her and double and make her get it out of her hands.’ And she still put up 11 more. Anytime you have a quality player like that, you’ve got to do what you can to get it out of her hands.”
In the end, though, Tippecanoe just had the big-game experience necessary to put it away.
After Clodfelter’s big game, Ashleigh Mader added 13 points, Katie Hemmelgran and Katie Salyer each chipped in seven and Kenna Smith and Hannah Wildermuth each had two.
For Troy, after Taylor and Bass, Elise McCann had four points and four rebounds, Laura Borchers had three points and Brynn Siler had two points and 10 rebounds.
“I’m starting two freshmen, and the experience on the other side against me starting two freshmen — and those freshmen played their butts off,” Johnson said. “Next year, this type of game as sophomores? They’ll be seasoned. I was proud of how all six of my girls played today.”
And even though Troy’s winning streak ended, the Trojans — who host Stebbins Wednesday before their rematch at Piqua on Feb. 8 — can take away the fact that they played much better than the first meeting between the teams, a 40-25 loss at Tippecanoe.
“Night and day,” Johnson said. “I think we play together better, we definitely execute better, and there’s much better chemistry — better than maybe since I’ve been here. They try to help and support each other. And I think they’re developing some pride.
“This is a little setback. We still have a game Wednesday before that team up North, so there’s still a lot to play for. And if that loss to Piqua made us turn a corner, maybe this one will be another step forward and push us to the next level.”
The Red Devils, meanwhile, will continue their 10-game winning streak and, league title in hand, look to keep building momentum for the postseason at home against Sidney Wednesday and Butler on Feb. 8.
“If we can put two of those halves together, that’s what we need. And we should be doing that this time of year,” Holderman said. “It’s just one of those games where some good things happened, and there were some things we had to overcome.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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