The seniors on Tipton’s boys basketball team made the most of their last shot to beat Kokomo.
Indiana All-Star candidate Mike Crawford scored 35 points and Blake Hoover hit a game-winning 3-pointer with :05 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Class 2A No. 3-ranked Blue Devils past the Class 4A No. 8 Wildkats 57-56 in a thriller Saturday night.
“It feels good,” Hoover said. “We played them really well the past few years I’ve been here, but had some close losses. It feels really good to finally get them once. That is a good team.”
Tipton (14-1) snapped a four-game losing streak in the long-running series and earned its first home-court victory over the Kats since the 1982-83 season. Saturday marked just the fourth time since the 1962-63 season that the Blue Devils were able to best the Kats at home.
“All week, we’ve been preparing for this game,” said Crawford, who also had nine rebounds and two assists. “There was nothing more that I wanted to do than beat Kokomo this year. It was the only team in the regular season that I had never beat. It’s very fulfilling.”
Hoover was a thorn in the Kats’ side. In addition to hitting the game-winning shot, he hounded Kokomo guard Tayler Persons into an off night. Persons finished with a season-low four points — 13 below his season average — and had five turnovers along with six assists and six rebounds.
“I liked it when [coach Brad Dickey] pointed me out to [defend Persons], but my teammates helped me a lot on it. I couldn’t do it by myself. As a group, we did great,” Hoover said.
Kokomo (12-2) seemed in control in the overtime session. Hakim Burnett hit a baseline jumper for a 56-52 lead with 1:19 remaining. After Tipton’s Nate Friend scored inside to make it 56-54 at :52, Persons went to the line for a one-and-bonus at :21.3. He missed the front end and the Devils rebounded.
Following a timeout at :13.5, Hoover found himself with a clean look on the left wing.
“We had Mason [Degenkolb], who is a really good shooter, go to the corner and we had Mike off the down screen. They covered that good and just left me. I just took the shot I do every day at practice,” Hoover said.
Crawford had full confidence in Hoover to take and make the shot.
“He has been my best friend since sixth grade when he moved here,” Crawford said. “I knew he could [make the shot] and I had all the faith in him. I knew when he shot the ball it was going in.”
Kokomo had one final shot at the win, but Persons’ running jumper from the top of the key missed, setting off a court charging by Tipton’s student section.
The OT session capped a tense, back-and-forth game. Kokomo was up 15-13 after the opening quarter and Tipton led 29-27 at halftime at which point Crawford had 19 points on near-perfect shooting — 6 of 7 from the field, including 2 of 3 from 3-land, and 5 of 5 from the free throw line.
Kokomo held a 40-39 advantage after three quarters and was up 50-45 with 2:09 left in regulation, but Crawford hit a pair of free throws at 1:26 and Degenkolb took a charge on Persons at 1:07 to give the Devils possession. Crawford then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at :40 to forge a 50-all tie.
Hoover forced Persons into a five-second violation at :09.9, giving the Blue Devils a shot to win in regulation, but Crawford missed a contested drive in the closing seconds.
The game featured nine lead changes and eight ties.
“That was obviously a fun game,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “We never stopped trying. Our kids kind of believe in each other and that was a great way to end it, to have our two seniors really leading the way and making the big plays.”
Crawford had nine rebounds to go with his 35 points. Hoover finished with nine points.
Burnett led the Kats with 16 points, LaBradford Sebree had 15 points and Erik Bowen had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Kokomo lost despite shooting 59.1 percent from the field. Coach Brian McCauley pointed to the Blue Devils’ 14-7 advantage in offensive rebounds and free throw shooting as differences in the game. The Devils shot 10 of 12 from the line while the Kats struggled at the line, making just 3 of 7.
“Obviously [the loss] hurts, but first of all, congratulations to Tipton. They’re an outstanding team led by an Indiana All-Star and they played really well,” McCauley said. “They showed a lot of toughness. They were scrapping, they got to offensive rebounding which is just effort, they were on the floor, they were taking charges — those all are toughness plays.”
McCauley noted his players had their share of toughness plays as well and he noted several things he liked about his team’s effort, individually and collectively. He called the Kats’ shot selection “the best” of the season.
“It’s just two very good teams going at it,” he said.
The seniors on Tipton’s boys basketball team made the most of their last shot to beat Kokomo.
GASKINS: Hibbert’s block was thing of beauty
For the better part of the NBA season, ESPN devoted all kinds of time on SportsCenter episodes to replays of two dunks. Anyone who watches any ESPN at all surely knows the two to which I’m referring: 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers posterizing 6-3 Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons, and 6-8 LeBron James of the Miami Heat hammering home a dunk over 6-2 Jason Terry of the Boston Celtics.
Day after day, ESPN commentators lavished endless praise, which quickly grew tiresome. The dunks were strong, but Jordan and James were much taller and heavier than Knight and Terry and the dunkers also caught perfect alley-oop passes with the defenders in poor positions to defend. Still, ESPN commentators loved these plays.
I kept wondering if a great defensive play would receive the same kind of love.
Coons, Walker, Glassburn reach Victory Lane
When the dust settled Sunday evening at the Kokomo Speedway, a pair of drivers who have visited Victory Lane in the past at the local oval found themselves there once again while a talented up-and-comer hit the hallowed ground for the first time.
Jerry Coons Jr. had his way in the sprint car feature and Craig Walker seemed to get faster as the laps wound down to win the Street Stock main event, however Kokomo High School sophomore Kory Glassburn had to scratch and fight before scoring the first feature win of his career in the Thunder Car A-main.
Field is set for Indianapolis 500
After being bumped from the starting field while sitting on the qualifying line on pole day, Josef Newgarden turned the fastest time on bump day, assuring himself a spot in the Indianapolis 500.
The field of 33 cars will have one final opportunity to practice on Friday before next Sunday’s 97th running of the 500.
One year ago the Sarah Fisher Racing Team withdrew Newgarden’s entry on the first day of qualifying and had to qualify on bump day. This year the team decided not to make another qualifying run and got bumped.
Athlete of the week
Cole led the small-school Comets to the Kokomo Sectional title, their first title since 1998.
Kats regain tennis throne
At 10:51 a.m. Saturday morning, the bulk of Kokomo’s girls tennis team sprinted from the viewing hill to the east entrance of the tennis courts to mob No. 1 singles player Morgan Mohr as she came off the court following her 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Eastern’s Courtney Clark.
The No. 3 singles match was still raging, but the team match was already won. The Wildkats had reconquered the throne from two-time defending champion Eastern and were once again champions of the Kokomo Sectional.
Eastern boys track claims first sectional title since 1998
The boys track and field coach at Eastern High School from 1987 until last season, Paul Nicholson’s parting message to his team was simple: “Don’t deny the gift.”
That motto left such a lasting impression on the Comets’ returning athletes that they had it screen printed on their 2013 season T-shirts.
With Nicholson in attendance to celebrate with them, new coach Austin Roark and the Comets outlasted host Kokomo to win their first sectional title since 1998 Thursday night, topping the Wildkats by 3.5 points, 124.5-121.
Eastern, Kokomo favored in boys track sectional
Some of the names and faces have changed, but the plot remains much the same.
The Kokomo boys track and field sectional, much like last year, will likely be a two-horse race between the host and three-time defending champion Wildkats and Eastern, a team looking to break through and win its first sectional title since 1998.
Cole to jump at Miami University
Eastern athlete Grant Cole has only been a long jumper for two seasons, but being turned on to the event late in his career has landed him a scholarship to Miami University.
Comets roar to sectional title
As the old adage goes, it’s harder stay on top than it is to reach the top.
Eastern’s girls track and field team entered the 2012 postseason hoping to put in a strong enough effort to claim the program’s first sectional title.
Having done so, the Comets entered Tuesday’s postseason opener — the Madison-Grant Sectional — with a much larger bull’s-eye on their backs than in previous years.
Eastern proved up to the challenge, scoring a landslide victory to repeat as sectional champions with 125 points.
Dexter leaving Eastern
Eastern girls basketball coach Jeremy Dexter has stepped down from the Comet program after accepting the AD job at Churubusco last week. Churubusco is in Whitley County about 15 minutes west of Fort Wayne.
Dexter led the Comets to a Class 2A state runner-up finish this past season.
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