Blessed with shooters who prefer a fast pace, Tippecanoe hopes avenging an early-season loss to Butler shows it’s not prone to shrinking from contact when things get tough in the games ahead.
Tipp City, OH – It’s not that head coach Adam Toohey’s team doubts him when he talks about the one trait his Tippecanoe basketball team must keep top of mind, it’s that his Red Devils need a reminder now and then.
And maybe again.
The message clearly landed with impact prior to a Senior Night tip-off against rival Vandalia Butler, which is why Toohey could exhale happily as he sat down to reflect on Tipp’s 62-37 victory.
“Whoooo,” he began. “That felt really good.”
Sure, it did…a lot better than the 45-42 loss Tipp suffered Tuesday at Sidney, and way better than the 46-44 upset Butler hung on the Devils earlier this season.
Those were the latest wake-up calls Toohey hopes embedded deeply in his team’s psyche this time around so there isn’t a repeat ahead in the post-season of what happened just about a year ago.
Back then, with a team that could light it up, Tipp jumped out big early against Chaminade-Julienne and then wilted in a heart-breaking regional semifinal loss that was more back-alley brawl than basketball game.
That possibility threatened again in Butler, which Toohey admits won round one when his team visited Vandalia because Tipp again played timid.
“They were way more physical than us the first time around,” he said. “They pushed us around when we were on offense and they were on defense. Sidney woke us up with that on Tuesday.
“After that one, we said, ‘We have to be more physical on offense.’ We tend to want a foul called when there’s contact. But we have to know that it’s February, and they’re just not going to call that foul in February. We have to play through the physicality.”
Butler succeeded in making things difficult for awhile, but lost touch from a two-point deficit early the second quarter when Tipp augmented an 8-0 run with a six-point possession courtesy of a technical foul on Aviators’ coach Adam Betten.
“They had a lot of energy in the building with it being Senior Night,” Betten said. “We came out with too many turnovers early. We have to control it possession by possession, but they got up on us and just outmatched our energy.”
Tristen Vandervort’s three-point field goal had Butler within 17-15 when the walls caved in, first via an 8-0 burst that Gavin Garlitz began with a layup off a Butler turnover.
Garlitz, who led Tipp with 14 points, closed the getaway with a three-pointer from the wing that handed the Devils a 25-15 margin.
Butler missed at its end, and before the Aviators would regain possession, they’d trail by 16.
Evan Manes, fouled on a three-point attempt, hit two free throws. Garlitz bagged both technical tosses and then Liam Poronsky drove and scored to provide a 31-15 edge.
For us four seniors, we knew this was our last chance in this rivalry,” Garlitz said. “It’s one of the biggest in the area. Talking with our guys, I think they really sensed our energy for this one and they really fed off that. That really helped us.”
Just one minute after Tipp took its 16-point edge, Butler’s Casey Bennett took umbrage to being fouled on a field goal attempt and rifled the ball toward a Tipp player in full view of the officials.
A second technical resulted and Tipp got the better end of that exchange, as well, with Garlitz matching Bennett’s free throw and Stanley Clyne then scoring on the accompanying possession.
Poronsky’s rebound conversion of his own miss just before the halftime buzzer put the finishing touches on Tipp’s second-quarter dominance that supplied a 36-18 lead at the break.
“Taking advantage of those technicals was huge,” said Poronsky, who scored 10 for Tipp. “When you leave the game in the six- to eight-point range, you allow them a chance to come back and that gives them hope. But when you’re at 10, and instead of going down to six, you push it to 16, that’s a huge swing in momentum.”
A seven-point burst to start the third quarter sent Tipp’s lead to 43-18 and ended Butler’s chance of duplicating its Jan. 7 upset of the Devils.
“We got away from our pressure stuff over there,” Toohey said. “We are usually high up-tempo, full-court and half-court, but we just played half-court man against them. We watched it afterward and realized we lost our identity.
“The way we played this time is more our pace. This is more our style. And over there we just never got that. They played with Superman capes on against us. They’re different team over there. Offensively, we struggled and shied away from some physicality over there.”
Poronsky, a junior, said the Devils want to become known as a physical team going forward.
“I hope so.” Toohey said. “We need to learn that lesson. We know how people look at us from the outside, as soft, suburban kids. We have to play tough and physical against anyone and everyone. I think that (Sidney loss) woke us up big-time.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a coach, the bigger the games the more physicality is going to be allowed, especially in the second half. We need to understand that and play up to that.”