By MICHELLE GARMON
Tipton’s half-court trapping defense, red-hot shooting and a balanced offensive attack were the keys as the Blue Devils overcame a slow start to steam roll past Sheridan 79-41 in Friday night’s second semifinal of Class 2A Sectional 39.
The host Blue Devils (16-6) will play Madison-Grant (14-10) in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game. The Argylls outlasted Central Indiana Conference and Grant County rival Eastbrook 67-61 in double overtime.
“I thought good second game, our focus was good,” Tipton coach Cliff Hawkins said. “We had to wait for a couple of overtimes. We’re looking forward to playing tomorrow night.”
Nolan Swan and Nate Powell shared game-high scoring honors with 23 points apiece to lead Tipton. Powell also had six rebounds, three steals and two assists, while Swan had four assists and three steals. Two other Blue Devils finished in double figures as freshman Grady Carpenter added 11 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, and sophomore Jackson Money had 10 points, three assists and two steals. Aden Tolle chipped in five points, while Maverick Conaway and Gavin Hare each knocked down a 3-pointer and Landon Spidel added a free throw.
The Blue Devils finished 32 of 46 (70%) from the field, including 10 of 16 (63%) from 3-point range, and were 5 for 7 from the free-throw line. Tipton won the rebounding battle 23-10 but had nine turnovers. However, the Devils forced 16 Sheridan turnovers.
Four of Tipton’s turnovers came in first quarter, and three of those in the first four minutes which allowed Sheridan to jump out to a 6-2 lead early. But the Blue Devils outscored the Blackhawks 12-2 the rest of the quarter and thanks to a 3-pointer by Swan and a 15-foot jumper by Carpenter led 14-9 at the quarter break.
Tipton opened the second quarter on a 17-3 run. Powell had five points, while Swan scored eight points. He converted a three-point play after accepting a beautiful 20-foot bounce pass from Carpenter, who capped the run by grabbing a rebound and going coast-to-coast for the layup that put Tipton up 31-12 with just under four minutes remaining in the first half. Evan Grinstead, who scored Sheridan’s first nine points on three 3s, cut the lead to 35-18. Money and Tolle each netted treys with Tolle’s sending the Blue Devils into halftime with a 43-22 advantage.
“I thought our 22-ball (half-court trapping defense) really made a difference,” Hawkins said. “We haven’t played it in a while, but we practice it so when you need it, you’ve got it. It affected their alignment on how they would attack and pretty much became about them passing it back out or in the middle and back out. We then finally had them slowed down. I thought that was the change in the game.
“And then the attack inside. When we took Sam (Ridgeway) out and put Grady in the high post and gave the ball to Nate down low then we had three perimeters on the outside and we were pretty hard to defend. I thought that was where the change was made.”
Tipton stretched its lead to 57-30 before Ethan Moistner’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 57-34. However, the Blue Devils scored the final nine points of the third period. Money had a 3 and Swan knocked down two, his second putting the Devils up 68-33 with :50 remaining in the third and invoking the mercy rule, so the game finished with a running clock.
Powell’s three-point play early in the fourth quarter gave the Blue Devils their largest lead, 76-36. Tipton then began to clear the bench.
“When you get selected to be out there in the tournament, you’ve got to make everything count and I thought, the kids who came in and got that experience tonight did a nice job,” Hawkins said. “I thought they were working as hard as they could work, and they had the pride of being a Tipton Blue Devil. I saw a lot of positives from all 12 of our players tonight.”
Grinstead led Sheridan with 19 points, while Caleb Wright and DeVaney added seven points each. Moistner chipped in six points for the Blackhawks, who ended the season with a 4-19 record.