TIPPECANOE — Tippecanoe boys basketball coach Adam Toohey and his team find themselves in a role reversal this year.
From being the hunter to being the hunted.
Toohey knows the bullseye is squarely on the unbeaten Red Devils back every time they take the floor.
And Friday night was no exception when Piqua visited.
The Indians, who had lost to Tipp 79-46 in the first meeting, were tied with the Red Devils 45 going to the fourth quarter, before Tippecanoe came away with a 68-53 victory to improve to 9-0.
Piqua dropped to 3-7.
“It is different,” Toohey said. “In the past, we were always chasing the Andre Gordons and Sidney or the really good Butler teams. Every time we got out there (there is a target on their back). That is what I have told the kids, you are going to get everybody’s best. We are not going to win every game 80-40.”
Especially, when a team has already played you.
“It is different when you are playing a team for the second time,” Toohey said. “And we hadn’t played since Saturday. And we are still working our way back into it (after being on quarantine).”
Piqua coach Steve Grasso knows all about that.
“I felt like we were playing at a really high level before we went into quarantine,” he said. “We are getting back to that. We are able to do that for two or three quarters. And we didn’t have Garrett (Schrubb) the first time we played them.”
Toohey also saw an improved Piqua team from the first meeting.
“ Piqua is a good team, who is strong inside,” Toohey said. “We don’t have guys like that (Jerell Lewis, Caleb Lyons).”
The three-point shooting of Dre’sean Roberts and Schrubb led Piqua to an 18-10 first quarter lead.
Tipp had pulled even at 28 at halftime and it was still even 45-45 after three quarters, with Lewis scoring 10 points down low in the third quarter.
“When we get the ball inside, that is where our strength is,” Grasso said. “It is unfortunate the final score ended up what it did, because I don’t think that reflects how competitive a game it was. We tried to limit their 3-point shots and run-outs and I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
But, when it got down to crunch time, Ben Knostman did what he does.
Whether it is creating easy opportunities for teammates or scoring himself, Knostlman helped the Red Devils open a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter. At one point, he scored seven points in three Tipp possessions at a critical juncture.
Knostman nearly had a quadruple double.
He finished with 23 pointss, 14 rebounds, 14 assists, eight blocked shots and three steals.
“And I thought Ben (Knostman), Nick Robbins and Gavin Garlitz did a nice job on defense,” Toohey said. “Ben probably blocked at least five shots. And he is doing what we teach them — don’t knock it out out of bounds, keep it in play so we can get the ball.”
Grasso agreed with the importance of Knostman.
“They know if he gets the ball (on the rebound), to take off and he will find a way to get the ball to them with long passes,” Grasso said. “They got a couple runouts there in the fourth quarter.”
Zach Frederick added 14 points and seven rebounds, while Cole Coppock had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Nick Robbins added seven points.
Roberts led Piqua with 17 points, while Lewis added 16 points.
Schrubb scored 11 points and Lyons added seven points, while pulling down 12 rebounds.
Tippecanoe was 29 of 63 from the floor for 46 percent, including four of 18 from 3-point range for 22 percent. The Red Devils made six of 11 free throws for 55 percent.
Piqua was 21 of 43 from the floor for 49 percent, but just seven of 20 from the line for 35 percent.
Tipp won the battle of the boards 35-30 and had eight turnovers to Piqua’s 12.