By MARK SALUKE Kokomo Tribune
---- — ELWOOD — Tipton’s girls basketball team cruised past Eastern 61-32 in Tuesday’s opening game of the Class 2A Elwood Sectional, advancing to play Sheridan (14-6) in Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal.
A big second quarter boosted the No. 5-ranked Blue Devils to a 34-15 halftime lead that never fell below double digits the rest of the way.
Tipton (14-4) held a 19-11 after Brook Haalck’s basket for Eastern made it an eight-point game a minute into the second quarter. The Devils strung together a 10-0 run over the next 5 1/2 minutes to go up 29-11 on the way to the big halftime advantage.
“If you don’t take care of the basketball, they can go on quick spurts like that in a hurry,” Eastern coach Justin Coomer said. “Their pressure is relentless. Even if they don’t turn you over, they speed you up. They make you play faster than what you’re used to. They dictated the pace and got us out of rhythm.”
Eastern (5-16) committed 11 first-half miscues and 21 for the game in a contest that had the makings of a thriller early as there were four lead changes and two ties over the first 2 1/2 minutes. Tipton took the game’s final lead on Kacie Juday’s hoop at 5:24, making it 7-6 in a game that was all Devils the rest of the way.
“It was rough early but we were able to battle through some things,” Tipton coach Nick Comer said. “We got some of the emotion of the day out of our system and were able to just play really well together and support one another throughout.”
Less than three hours before tipoff Tuesday night, Juday, along with fellow starter Molly Mahaney and reserve Morgan Earl, were in a car wreck. Two other members of the team who didn’t dress for the game Tuesday, Natalie Moses and Leah Powell, were also in the accident, but no serious injuries resulted for any of the girls.
“Obviously, with the circumstances earlier in the day, you just never know how the kids are going to respond,” Comer said. “But when you have senior leaders like Lela [Crawford] and Kacie, they’ve always got each other’s back and Lela was phenomenal early on and really kind of calmed that emotional storm we came into the game with.”
Crawford netted seven of her game-high 22 points over the first eight minutes as Tipton built a 17-9 lead at the first stop.
At the start of the second half, after Macie Lively put the Devils up 21 at 36-15, Eastern strung together an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 36-23 two minutes into the frame, but again it was Crawford who kept the Comets at bay, scoring seven points during a 12-0 Tipton run to close out the quarter and make it 48-23 heading into the fourth.
Lively finished with 16 points and seven rebounds for the Devils, while Juday scored 12 points and added seven boards as well.
“Macie played probably as tough as I’ve ever seen her play,” Comer said. “To come away with seven rebounds from the guard spot against a team that is big and strong like Eastern … that says a lot. And Kacie, I don’t know if there’s another player in the state who can have the kind of situation and afternoon she did and still come out and perform that way.”
Abby Oyler and Emily Richards each scored six points for Eastern. Taylor Holliday led the Comets with eight boards as Coomer closed out his first season at the helm.
“I’m still learning,” Coomer said. “We were in a lot of games and then we weren’t able to close them out this year. We had a pretty good season compared to what our record shows. I’m proud of how the girls battled.”