By TRAVIS MILLER Kokomo Tribune
---- — ALEXANDRIA — Tipton added a new chapter to its long and proud boys basketball history on Saturday night. The Blue Devils won their 24th sectional championship, but for the first time a graduating class of seniors went 4-for-4 in winning sectionals.
The Blue Devils attempted 41 free throws and got 25 points from sophomore Mason Degenkolb in beating Eastern 58-40 to win their fourth straight Class 2A Sectional 39 title. They will face Fountain Central in next week’s Lapel Regional as they go for a fourth straight regional championship.
“We had good composure [Saturday] and made plays throughout the game and were in good control all night long,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “Our legs were fresh and our eyes were wide open. It was a great night to be a Blue Devil.”
While Eastern made it to the sectional final behind a torrid shooting night and a great start against Madison-Grant on Friday, the opposite happened to the Comets (5-18) in the championship. Eastern even had to scramble to play, as they inexplicably forgot their uniforms and had to dress in the home jerseys of host Alexandria.
The Comets lacked the patience they displayed in beating Madison-Grant. Eastern rushed several shots in the opening quarter and fell behind 7-0 before Noah Cope got them on the board with a 3-pointer just over four minutes in.
“We played a quality team [Saturday] that made us do things we didn’t want to do early in the contest,” Eastern coach Mike Springer said. “They forced us into some out-of-rhythm jump shots and things like that. Defensively they caused problems for us and they worked together moving the ball really well.”
Braden Gibson added two more 3-pointers in the first quarter for Eastern as the Comets trailed only 17-11 after one, but Eastern could get very little going from the field after that. By halftime the Comets were just 5 of 20 overall from the field overall and 2 of 10 from inside the arc.
Tipton did not have such troubles, as Degenkolb scored 16 points in the first half in pacing the Blue Devils (14-8) to a 33-23 lead. Eastern was able to stay relatively close by connecting on 10 of 11 first-half free throws.
Despite being cold from the field, Eastern was able to stay close in the third quarter as Tipton also struggled. Eastern was able to get the lead down to 40-32 on a pair of free throws with 6.8 seconds left in the quarter, but Degenkolb beat the third-quarter horn with a baseline jumper that proved to be a backbreaker.
“That’s part of what Mason’s good at,” said Dickey. “He can really elevate and has a nice jump shot. That was a big shot because we did not want to give away part of our lead.”
Tipton went on on to score the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to break the game open. Eight of the points came from the free throw line as a series of seven fouls in about a minute’s time led to numerous free throw attempts at both ends. The Comets missed the front end of two one-and-ones, preventing them from capitalizing.
Tipton also got a big night from Tanner Maxey, as he finished with a career-high 15 points and also had eight rebounds.
Gibson, Eastern’s lone senior, finished in double figures with 12.