By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
MASON — The Tippecanoe girls basketball team knew the monumental challenge it faced in Friday’s district final, taking on Roger Bacon.
“The bottom line is, not many people were giving us a chance in this game,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “To go against the quality of athletes they have that are going to be playing at the next level, I thought we played hard, we played together, we never gave up — and that’s all you can ask.”
In the end, though, the Spartans battled back from a four-point halftime deficit and got big shots from unexpected sources every time the Red Devils tried to answer as Roger Bacon wrapped up a 63-54 victory in a battle of No. 1 seeds in the Division II district final Friday night at Mason Middle School, snapping Tippecanoe’s 15-game winning streak and ending its season.
The Spartans (19-7), who won their fifth straight and 12th in their last 13, advance to Tuesday’s regional semifinal round to take on Jonathan Alder — the ninth-ranked team in the season’s final state poll — at Springfield High School. Tippecanoe, which held the lead at halftime despite coming in as the underdog, finished the season 21-5 and made its seventh straight district final appearance, falling there for the second straight year.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first half,” Holderman said. “In the second half, the game got a lot more physical. And with that, it kind of slowed us down and took our momentum away.”
And with Roger Bacon boasting three players — Clarissa Craig in the post and guards Kylee Sheppard and Kelly Brenner — all averaging more than 12 points per game, Tippecanoe knew it had to pick its poison on defense.
“We knew going in that we had to give something up,” Holderman said. “When they’ve got three or four weapons there, in order to double, you’ve got to give something up. We said going in that it would take a career night from somebody else, and they had players step up.
“We tried to take away the dribble drive, we doubled (Clarissa) Craig, and we were forcing other people to beat us.”
And that’s what Sami Hoffman did. Averaging 4.0 points per game coming in, she hit four of the Spartans’ eight 3-pointers — including three in the fourth quarter and finished with 14 points to help Roger Bacon put the game away late.
“Those were huge,” Holderman said. “And again, that was something we chose to give up. We did, and she stepped it up.”
On the flip side, junior Ashleigh Mader had a monster night for the Devils, piling up a game- and career-high 24 points and grabbing six rebounds, hitting three of Tippecanoe’s five 3s and doing everything she could to shoot the Devils back into the game after the Spartans had taken control.
“We’ve been waiting for that all year, and she picked a good time to do it,” Holderman said of Mader. “It’s just too bad that, in that second half, we made a couple mistakes at key times, and they hit a couple big shots from unexpected people.”
The Devils trailed 12-10 after one quarter but were able to get to the free throw line and convert on its chances throughout the first half, going 13 for 14 from the line — with the only miss coming on a lane violation — to take a 25-21 lead at halftime. To that point, Craig — the Spartans’ leading scorer with 14.1 points per game coming in — was held to zero.
Tippecanoe led by as many as six at 27-21 early in the third, but Craig scored inside to get on the board and later converted a three-point play that cut the Devils’ lead to one at 29-28. After both of Tippecanoe’s post players, Rachel Wildermuth and Katie Hemmelgarn, picked up their third fouls midway through the third, Lyric Harris hit a pair of free throws to give the Spartans a one-point lead, Brenner hit a 3-pointer in transition after a Devil turnover and Roger Bacon never trailed again. A series of four straight Red Devil turnovers turned into a 9-0 run, and the Spartans led 41-37 after three.
“We’d been preaching staying mentally tough and not getting into those up-and-down situations,” Holderman said. “Roger Bacon wanted more possessions, and we wanted to take care of it, get some ball screens and use some clock. A couple times, we got into that running game with them, and it got really sloppy both ways.”
A bucket by Hemmelgarn got the Devils to within three early in the fourth, but that was as close as they got. Roger Bacon hit enough free throws in the fourth to push the lead to as many as 12, and Tippecanoe’s simply couldn’t respond.
Sheppard led Roger Bacon with 23 points, going 11 for 16 from the free throw line, matching a career high in total points and adding eight rebounds. Hoffman added 14 points, Brenner scored 11, Harris had eight points and six rebounds and Craig finished with seven points and nine rebounds as the Spartans outrebounded Tippecanoe 27-26, won the turnover battle 13-11 and went 23 for 30 from the line in the game — 17 for 22 in the second half — while the Devils ended up going 15 for 18 in the game, only attempting four free throws in the second half.
After Mader’s 24-point effort, Kendall Clodfelter added 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists, Hemmelgarn scored 11 points and Kenna Smith, Katie Salyer and Rachel and Hannah Wildermuth each had two points.
It was the final game in the careers of Tippecanoe’s two seniors, Clodfelter and Salyer.
“Obviously, we’ll miss Kendall a lot. She led us in every statistical category. Katie was huge as far as rebounding the basketball and her leadership. We’re definitely going to miss those two,” Holderman said. “But we’ve got a good core group of girls coming back — and hopefully this loss hurts. We’ll give them the offseason to remember this and work hard and get ourselves in a better situation next year.”
Contact Josh Brown at jb[email protected], or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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