Class 2A SEMISTATE
Tipton (25-2) vs. Bowman Academy (16-9)
Where: Huntington North H.S.
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
TIPTON — Fifteen wins, two losses.
Tipton’s boys basketball team has enjoyed deep runs during the last three postseasons, reaching the semistate each time while racking up the aforementioned record.
In that tally is a 12-0 mark on the Blue Devils’ home floor. They’re just 3-2 outside of The Inferno, including neutral-site losses in the previous two Class 2A North Semistate contests.
The latest postseason loss came at the hands of Bowman Academy in a 69-64 heartbreaker in last season’s semistate at Lafayette Jeff’s Crawley Athletic Center. The Blue Devils trailed by 11 at the half and got as close as three in the closing minutes before succumbing to defeat.
The No. 2-ranked Blue Devils will get a chance at redemption Saturday when they head to Huntington to take on Bowman again. Their Class 2A semistate matchup is at 1 p.m. A win would not only make those postseason losses a distant memory, it would send Tipton to the state finals for the first time in program history.
“We had a chance to win it, we just didn’t close it out,” senior Mike Crawford said. He scored a career-high 40 points in last season’s loss to the Eagles. “Hopefully we can do that this year. This’ll be my third time here and I hate to lose. I just want to win it.”
Tipton and Bowman have both navigated their way back to the semistate level this season despite featuring new faces in their respective rotations.
Crawford leads the Blue Devils’ charge, averaging 27.2 points per game this season, eclipsing the 2,000-point career scoring mark during the postseason. The Saint Louis University recruit has emerged as a Mr. Basketball candidate in recent weeks. He also pulls down a team-high 8.6 rebounds per game.
Senior point guard Blake Hoover (10.6 ppg) and junior forward Nate Friend (7.5 ppg) played major roles on last season’s team as well, but the other regulars, including freshman guard Mason Degenkolb (7.7 ppg), junior center Luke Shively (5.0 ppg), junior forward Austin Hooker (3.4 ppg, 5.2 rebounds), junior guard Tanner Maxey and sophomore guard Brody Dell are all, for the most part, experiencing their first postseason as go-to players.
“I think maybe our group over-performed a little bit because we lost so many talented kids over the last couple seasons,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “The expectations were probably mixed on this group, but because of our strength and toughness, we’ve hung in there. We’ve had a lot of competitive close games. The coaches aren’t shocked that we’re doing this again, but I think some of the community is surprised that we’ve performed so well.”
On the flip side, No. 7-ranked Bowman (16-9) returns three players who saw action in last season’s semistate game. Justin King, Antonio Pipkin and Linden Jackson combined for two points in the win.
“They did graduate some power and some height, but they bring back some excellent athletes and they’re going to play the same way,” Dickey said. “They still fly around and trap and press. They’re capable scorers and great rebounders. It’s another daunting task, but we’ll take another shot at them.”
King, a 6-foot-7 junior, scored 19 points in the Eagles’ regional championship win over Fort Wayne Bishop Luers. He’s already picked up his first NCAA Division I scholarship offer from Northern Illinois, averaging 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season.
Pipkin, a 6-3 senior guard, chipped in 19 as well in the win over Luers and has averaged 11.8 ppg and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game.
Sophomore David Dillard, a 6-4 guard, scored 19 to match King and Pipkin in the win over Luers. Dillard enters semistate play averaging a team-high 15.9 points per game, drawing interest from several Big Ten schools and North Carolina.
Junior guard Aurthur Haggard III adds 13.2 ppg to a high-octane offense that averages 72.8 ppg and has scored 80 or more nine times.
The Eagles have been held under 60 points just five times, the lowest output coming in a 69-56 loss to Indianapolis Tech to open the season back on Nov. 20.
Tipton only gives up 52.3 ppg, holding its opponents to 50 of fewer 11 times.
“Maybe we can hold them down? Maybe we need to outscore them? We’ll see how it goes when we get there,” Dickey said. “Our kids are spirited and solve a lot of problems on their own. We scored a lot more points in the sectional than we thought we might, but that was the style of play at that point. We’ll make another adjustment Saturday.”
The Blue Devils (25-2) have been no stranger to close ballgames. Tipton enters Saturday with a 6-1 record in games decided by two points or less. The only loss in that stretch was a 67-65 setback to 3A No. 9 Frankfort on Feb. 15. The Hot Dogs led the Blue Devils 24-12 at the end of the first quarter, only to have Tipton outscore them by 10 the rest of the way before holding on.
“I hope it’s beneficial,” Dickey said of his team’s tested resume. “We stick together. Our kids support each other and that’s one of the ways you can win a close game. This is a whole new set of challenges. This is a different kind of team to play. This is a new set of circumstances. If you’re a Blue Devil, you have to go ahead and believe.”
The Class 3A North Semistate, pitting No. 3 Andrean (22-3) against No. 7 Fort Wayne Concordia (22-4), will follow at 3:15 p.m.
Class 2A SEMISTATE
Northwestern takes down West Lafayette
Northwestern played a very solid game on both offense and defense in defeating West Lafayette 8-5 in the opening round of the IHSAA Class 3A Peru Baseball Sectional Thursday night.
10 area athletes advance to boys track state finals
Austin Roark’s first season as the head boys track and field coach at Eastern High School just keeps getting better and better.
A week after guiding the Comets to their first sectional title since 1998, Roark will join six of his athletes at next weekend’s IHSAA state finals after advancing out of Thursday’s Kokomo Regional at Walter Cross Field.
Eastern dominates Taylor in softball
GREENTOWN — The third time turned out not to be the charm for the Taylor softball squad as Eastern improved to 3-0 on the season over its backyard rival Wednesday night, ousting the Titans from the Class 2A Eastern Sectional 15-0 in five innings.
Barnes sets Taylor's career hits record
Taylor baseball standout Logan Barnes made his final game at George Phares Field one to remember.
Barnes pitched four solid innings to lead Taylor past Monroe Central 9-3 Tuesday. In addition, he went 2 for 3 at the plate, pushing his career hits total to a school-record 142.
Kats drop heartbreaker
When the postseason arrives, emotions surge like a roller-coaster. One minute, it’s a long uphill, then a wild series of events offer a barrage of frights and thrills. And then, for one team, the ride ends and there aren’t any more tickets for another go around.
After two days of chills and thrills, Kokomo’s softball team ran out of tickets Tuesday night in the Class 4A Harrison Sectional. The Kats dropped a 4-3 decision to Harrison in eight innings, giving up a run in the top of the extra frame, and having a runner tagged out at home in the bottom of the frame.
“It was a great game,” Harrison coach Dick Mitchell said. “It’s always nerve-wracking to coach in one of them, but both teams played their hearts out. Nobody deserved to lose that game, but unfortunately somebody does.”
Comets turn heads at track regional
Heading into Tuesday’s IHSAA girls track and field regional at Fort Wayne Northrop High School’s Spuller Stadium, event workers alike weren’t sure of Eastern High School’s location.
After the dust settled, they may feel compelled to get a map out and find out where Greentown is located.
Led by seniors Sarah Wagner, Brittany Neeley and Bethany Neeley, the Comets qualified for the state finals in six separate events to finish fourth as a team with 55.5 points, behind host and champion Northrop (78), Bellmont (68) and Carroll (Allen) 66.
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.
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