Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 17, 2013

PREP BOYS HOOPS: Tipton’s comeback falls short in semistate loss

By Josh Sigler
Tribune sportswriter

— HUNTINGTON — Close losses in games which come down to the final minutes tend to hurt worse than blowouts.

Tipton’s boys basketball program has learned that the hard way over the last three seasons. Saturday was one more gut-wrenching reminder.

The Blue Devils fell to Bowman Academy 67-64 in the Class 2A North Semistate, marking the third time in as many years Tipton has dropped a heartbreaker one step short of the state finals.

Tipton’s three semistate losses have come by a total of 11 points, falling 53-50 to Hammond Noll in 2010-11, 69-64 to Bowman Academy last season, and the three-point margin once more to the Eagles Saturday at Huntington North’s North Arena.

“This is really tough,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “Our guys, they deserve more. I’m in here [Saturday] apologizing to them because they didn’t get all the things they deserved. I know that they got a lot. But, they deserved more. They really did. We’ve done the right things. We’ve acted right. We’ve played right. This is just an unfortunate end to something very good.”

Tipton (25-3) had a chance to tie the contest in the closing seconds.

Benefiting from poor Bowman free throw shooting, the Blue Devils closed to within two at 66-64 with 6.3 seconds to play on a Mike Crawford layup.

Tipton fouled Bowman’s Antonio Pipkin with 5.1 seconds left on the ensuing inbound play. Pipkin hit the first freebie and missed the second.

Crawford grabbed the rebound, weaved in and out of traffic, pulled up at the top the key just behind the 3-point arc, leapt into the air, double-clutched around a Bowman defender and let loose a floater that could have sent the game to overtime. The ball clanged off of the front of the rim as Crawford crumpled to the floor stunned.

“I’m very proud of all the kids,” Dickey said. “They care about each other and their sport. There’s one more case evidence of how hard the Blue Devils try. We just wanted to give them something else, one more trip in the tournament, and I feel terrible that we couldn’t pull it off. “

The Blue Devils appeared primed to head into intermission with control of the contest.

With Bowman starters Justin King and Antonio Pipkin on the bench for most of the second period with foul trouble, Tipton built a 26-21 lead on an 8-2 run that ended in a Crawford putback with 2:40 to play in the half.

With one starter on the floor, Bowman (17-9) retaliated with a lightning-quick 10-0 surge to seize control back into their favor at the half, 31-26.

Bowman outrebounded Tipton 22-15 in the first half, and dropped in 10 more second-chance points than the Blue Devils, 12-2.

“We went in at halftime and talked about the things we needed to improve upon, which were position defense and playing with confidence,” Bowman coach Marvin Rea said. “We looked at the positives from the first half. Justin King and Antonio Pipkin went to the bench with foul trouble, but we made a run with guys we don’t normally make runs with and were up. When you can make a run on a team like Tipton with Justin and Antonio on the bench, I think you’re in pretty good shape.”

The Eagles’ hot streak spilled over into the early stages of the second half, bolting out of the locker room and finishing off a 19-2 run that ended in a transition bucket by King to put Bowman in front 40-28 with 5:50 left in the third period.

The Eagles maintained at least a 10-point lead for most of the remainder of quarter, heading into the fourth up 53-45 after Crawford stuck in a putback before the buzzer.

Bowman shot an other-worldly 91 percent from the field in the third period, connecting on 10 of 11 shots.

“We knew it would come down to free throws, handling the ball and getting the ball into the right people’s hands,” Rea said. “My guys went out and got it done for me.”

Trailing 58-48 with 5:40 to play, Tipton began reeling Bowman in with the help of shaky free throw shooting.

The Eagles shot just 6 of 14 from the stripe in the final eight minutes, allowing Tipton’s fouling strategy to pay dividends.

In the end it was all for naught, however, as Tipton got within two on four occasions but no closer before Crawford’s hanger fell just a couple inches short of its target.

“Our kids never say die,” Dickey said. “They keep plugging away. It’s frustrating that we came up short. But, it’s fitting that we’re the ones who took the shot at the end with one more chance. That’s how our group is, but the only difference is we normally make that shot. That’s how it’s been this season. It’s been a great ride that came to a halt.”

Crawford led the Blue Devils with 40 points and 16 rebounds, matching a career high. He also scored 40 points in last season’s semistate loss to the Eagles.

Tipton’s other senior, Blake Hoover, added nine points and four assists. Freshman Mason Degenkolb added six points and three steals, while Austin Hooker added six points.

Arthur Haggard III led Bowman with 19 points. Pipkin added 16 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore Davon Dillard added 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

Bowman advances to the Class 2A state finals for the second straight year, where it will face Linton-Stockton. Linton (24-3) defeated Speedway 76-75 in overtime to win the Class 2A South Semistate Saturday at Richmond’s Tiernan Center.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition