ALEXANDRIA — When they last met on Feb. 8, Taylor’s boys basketball team clawed backed from a big deficit and made it a game before Tipton held on for a three-point, 61-58 victory.
Fast-forward to Friday night’s Class 2A Sectional 39 opening semifinal when the Titans, trailing by double-digits at the start of the second half, chiseled the deficit to five, 42-37, headed into the final frame, making it a three-point contest on Latrell Mitchell’s hoop just :08 into the fourth quarter, setting the table for a down-to-the wire finish.
Over the next 3 ½ minutes, Taylor had an answer for each push the Blue Devils made, keeping the game at arm’s length.
And just like that, everything changed.
Back-to-back hoops from Tanner Maxey and Mason Degenkolb put Tipton up nine points, 52-43, at 4:02 and the Devils’ lead hovered around double digits the rest of the game on the way to a 68-60 win.
“We still had enough left to apply some pressure. We regrouped our defense and made some real good partner plays on offense that gave us the spurt we needed to secure the lead and keep it,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “Our kids acclimated very well in the second half and behaved well enough to get the win.”
Tipton (13-8) will face Eastern (5-17), a 62-53 winner over Madison-Grant in Friday’s second semifinal, at 7:30 tonight in its quest for a fourth straight sectional crown.
“I don’t expect any nerves,” Dickey said. “I expect us to be more prepared physically and mentally because we have a good time frame to get ready.”
Degenkolb led Friday’s fourth-quarter surge for the Devils, netting 16 of his game-high 25 points in the period. The sophomore was a perfect 8 of 8 from the charity stripe over the final eight minutes as Tipton knocked down 14 of 18 freebies in the frame.