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By MICHELLE GARMON
The Tipton High School boys basketball team kept its Hoosier Conference title hopes alive with a 51-40 victory over Northwestern at the Inferno on Friday night.
The Blue Devils (10-3) improved to 2-1 in the conference, while the Tigers (3-7) fell to 0-3 in conference play. Western sits atop the East Division at 3-0, while Tipton and Hamilton Heights are 2-1.
“All-in-all a great victory. I like how our team’s progressing,” Tipton coach Cliff Hawkins said.
Tipton’s defense was the key to Friday’s win, making it tough for Northwestern to score, especially in the first half.
Northwestern did not pick up its first turnover of the game until Eli Edwards was called for an illegal screen at the 3:58 mark of the second quarter.
The Tigers turned it over two more times for a total of three at the half. But as their shooting improved in the second half, the Tigers got sloppier with the ball, turning it over seven times.
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, seven turnovers on the night with just two coming in the second half.
Although Tipton had three turnovers in the first quarter and Northwestern had zero, the Blue Devils owned a 6-2 lead. Six-foot-4 senior Nate Powell scored all six of the Devils’ first-quarter points. Northwestern’s points came on Callen Bennett’s two free throws with :33 remaining in the quarter. Northwestern was 0 of 8 from the field.
“We’ve got to make shots,” Northwestern coach Jim Gish said. “We hold our opponent to six points but we score two. It’s going to be a tough night if we don’t find a way to score the basketball.”
Connor Bostic provided a lift off the bench for the Tigers, knocking down a 3-pointer and following it with a baseline jumper that knotted the score at 8-all at the 5:01 mark of the second quarter. Powell’s bucket put Tipton up 10-8 but NW countered with six straight points from Mario Reed to take its only lead of the game, 14-10, with 2:18 remaining in the first half. Nolan Swan drained a deep 3 to start a 6-0 Tipton run to end the half with Jackson Money’s bucket sending the hosts into half with a 16-14 lead.
Money opened the third quarter with a bucket but the Tigers responded with a 7-3 run with Reed’s 3-pointer evening the score at 21-all with 3:18 left to play in the third quarter. That was the last tie of the game. Tipton ended the quarter on a 9-3 run with freshman Grady Carpenter knocking down two baseline 3-pointers, the second coming in the final seconds and putting the Blue Devils up 32-24 entering the fourth quarter.
Edwards scored seven of NW’s first nine points of the fourth quarter to keep the Tigers close, 39-33, with 4:06 left to play in the game. Carpenter scored seconds later to make it 41-33.
As the clock wound down to under three minutes to play, the Blue Devils were content to work the ball around, forcing NW to start fouling. Quentin Yeakel’s two-handed shove of Swan resulted in an intentional foul. Swan meshed both free throws and Carpenter was fouled on the ensuing possession and made 1 of 2 to put Tipton up 44-33.
A free throw by Aden Tolle extended the lead to 45-33 before Edwards came up with a three-point play to cut the lead to 45-36 with 1:01 remaining. The Blue Devils, however, put the game away as Carpenter, Swan and Powell combined to go 6 for 6 at the line in the final :59.
Swan finished with a game-high 17 points and also had four assists. Powell recorded a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds and Carpenter added 12 points. Edwards led the Tigers with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and 12 of his points came in the fourth quarter. Reed added nine points, while Koen Berry and Bostic chipped in seven points each.
“We locked in tonight right from the get got,” Hawkins said. “Wednesday night, I changed our format and did some things differently and I felt (Thursday) night when our kids walked out, we were locked in defensively. We understood coach Gish would try to control the game.
“We have common denominators of winning here. One of those is getting better shots, outrebounding the opponent and getting to the free-throw line and knocking them down and we were 18 of 24.
Tipton was 15 of 18 from the line in the final quarter. The Blue Devils were 15 of 32 from the field, including 3 of 12 from beyond the arc. Tipton won the rebound battle 23-21.
After going 4 for 17 from the field in the first half, Northwestern also finished 15 of 33 that included 2 of 7 from 3-point range. The Tigers were 8 for 12 from the free-throw line.
“We had some good shots early, we just didn’t hit those and when you don’t hit those, it really allows the defense to extend and come down on top of Eli in the post,” Gish said. “We had some open shots, we didn’t put them in the basket.”
Tipton is off until next Thursday when it will host Taylor.