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By MICHELLE GARMON
Tribune Sports Editor
ARCADIA — Tipton took control of Friday night’s game at arch-rival Hamilton Heights early and never relinquished it as the Blue Devils defeated the Huskies 66-55 to close out Hoosier Conference East Division play with a 3-1 record.
Tipton (11-4) secured second place in the division and will play in the third-place conference game on Feb. 18. Hamilton Heights (7-7) finished divisional play with a 2-2 record.
“We wanted to approach it with focus,” Tipton coach Cliff Hawkins said. “We know it’s an emotional type of setting, but our guys were focused on the 84-by-50 tonight, not looking up in the stands but focusing on the ball, our teammates and on the court. You can get into an emotional roller-coaster to where you’re really not functioning as a unit. I thought this was our best effort yet in regards to our preparation and focus.”
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Hamilton Heights coach Chad Ballenger said of the Blue Devils. “There’s no harm losing to them. They’re very good, they’re doing the right things, they’re young which is scary.
Friday’s game also featured two of the conference’s top forwards with Tipton senior Nate Powell and HH senior Luke Carroll sharing game-high honors with 27 points and seven rebounds. Powell and Nolan Swan, who added 15 points and seven assists for the Blue Devils, were instrumental in Tipton taking control of the game.
Heights led twice early – 3-0 on Dean Mason’s game-opening 3-pointer and 5-3 on Carroll’s 15-foot jumper. But Tipton went on an 8-0 run to assume control. Sam Ridgeway scored inside to get things started and Powell capped it with a layup that gave the Devils an 11-5 lead. Tillman Etchison’s basket ended the run. Powell scored again before Carroll knocked down a 3-pointer to cut Tipton’s lead to 13-10. Jackson Money’s layup off an inbounds play put Tipton up 15-10 at the end of one quarter.
Money’s basket started a 13-2 Blue Devil run. Powell scored back-to-back baskets as the second quarter got underway and added another. Grady Carpenter knocked down a 3-pointer and Aden Tolle capped off Tipton’s run with a 14-foot jumper to extend the Blue Devil lead to 26-13 at the 4:42 mark of the second quarter. Dean Mason converted a three-point play and added a 3-pointer as the Huskies used a 10-4 run to get within 30-23. However, Money swished a 3-pointer from the baseline to send the Devils into halftime with a 33-23 advantage.
Swan opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, but the Huskies answered with a 6-2 run with Carroll’s offensive putback cutting Tipton’s advantage to 38-29 at the 4:14 mark of the third period. Powell scored six straight points for Tipton, with his two free throws giving Tipton a 44-30 lead. Evan Williamson’s 3-pointer had the Huskies within 44-33 at the end of the third quarter.
Carroll converted two free throws to start the fourth quarter and cut Tipton’s lead to single digits, 44-35. But Swan found senior Sam Ridgeway, who went up and slammed home his second dunk of the game. Powell scored five points and Swan seven points, including a 3-pointer that gave the Blue Devils their largest lead, 58-43, of the game with 1:47 remaining.
The Huskies needed just 40 seconds to get within eight points. Etchison hit a three-pointer and converted a three-point play before Carroll scored off a Tipton turnover to pull Heights within 59-51 with 1:07 remaining in the game. Powell had an offensive rebound basket and Carpenter hit the second of two free throws to push the lead to 62-51. Carroll’s final basket of the night cut the lead to 62-53 with :31 remaining. Four straight free throws by Money extended Tipton’s lead to 66-63 with :13.5 remaining.
“We’re making our free throws, we’re sharing the ball and we’re playing pretty good defense,” Tipton’s Hawkins said. “There’s still a few too many offensive rebounds and things we continue to work on.”
Powell started out the game hitting just 3 of 8 shots in the first quarter. But was 8 of 9 from the field and 5 of 6 at the line the rest of the game on his way to 27 points. Swan was 3 of 5 from 3-point range also had four rebounds and three steals to go with his 15 points and seven assists.
“Felt like we left some things out there,” HH’s Ballenger said. “That’s not to take anything away because Tipton’s a good team. They did a great job. This is that game, it’s a big rival game, it’s full of emotion and you’ve gotta be able to play through the emotion. The game was physical, and you have to rise up. Tipton did that tonight. Powell hits free throws — he’s like a 48% free-throw shooter — and he goes 5 for 5 before he misses, so that’s huge and in a game you’re trying to make a run they were 13 of 16 and they shoot the ball very well.
“They’re so long they contest things. We didn’t respond at times well but that’s a credit to Tipton, they’re really good and they do what it takes to win games. ”
Powell and Swan were the only two Blue Devils to score in double figures, but Money added nine points, six rebounds and two assists. Carpenter contributed seven points, three rebounds and four assists, while Ridgeway added six points, three boards and four blocked shots. Tolle rounded out Tipton’s scoring with two points, and also had two assists.
Etchison added 12 points for the Huskies, while Mason chipped in nine points and seven boards.
The Blue Devils shot 54.5% (24 of 44) from the field and 81.2% (13 of 16) at the line. They were 5 for 9 (55.6%) from 3-point range. The Huskies were just 39.2% (22 of 56) from the field that included 4 of 17 (23.5%) from beyond the arc and 7 of 9 at the line.
“Think teams willing to share the ball, move the ball, play together and keep the focus, you have a chance to have really good results,” Hawkins said.
Tipton is scheduled to host Peru on Thursday night – weather permitting — and will travel to Northeastern for a Saturday afternoon contest.