By Pedro Velazco
MONTICELLO — Mike Crawford didn’t remember the basket which put him alone atop the Tipton boys basketball team’s all-time scoring list. He was wrapped up in a tight game at Twin Lakes, hadn’t kept track of his scoring and didn’t notice the Tipton crowd’s response.
It’s that focus that puts him in the position he finds himself in today, as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and with a chance to be the school’s all-time winningest player by the time he finishes this, his senior season.
Crawford scored 24 points Saturday night, helping his squad post a 60-47 victory at Twin Lakes. Class 2A No. 3-ranked Tipton improved to 12-1 overall and 5-0 in Hoosier Conference play and extended its league winning streak to 35 games. Twin Lakes fell to 7-5, and 1-2 in the HC.
“If the record came in a loss, I don’t know if that would have been a very happy moment,” Crawford said. “But it was nice that we got the win.”
The St. Louis recruit tied previous record-holder Matt Waddell with a driving bucket to close the first quarter and put his team up 17-12. He set the record with a 3-point basket with 4:03 left in the second quarter that put Tipton ahead 20-12.
“I played with the guy that held the record, so obviously, it’s been here for a long time,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. Dickey is a 1988 Tipton grad while Waddell graduated in 1990.
“Mike’s more of a banger and more of a physical-type player. Matt was an excellent shooter and a good set-up man. They have a lot of the same ball skills, but Mike’s a bone-crushing, inside-outside threat. Matt was a smoother player overall, but we sure like our guy.”
Growing up in Tipton, Crawford’s favorite players as a kid were always guards. He grew into a 6-foot-5 multi-threat with a silky touch from outside, a nice driving game, and the strength to mix it up inside. He took a game-high eight rebounds.
“[The record] means a lot,” Crawford said. “When I came up as a freshman, I never expected that I would do that. I want to say thanks to all our teammates and people that supported me. Without them, this wouldn’t happen. I’m more proud of all the wins that we’ve got than the actual record itself.”
Crawford scored at least five points in every quarter but was far from alone. Tipton guard Blake Hoover added 23 points and sparked the Blue Devils with the first six points of the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer and a hoop-and-harm fast break hoop to turn a three-point lead after three quarters into a 44-35 advantage. Crawford added the next basket on a flash to the paint to cap a 12-0 Tipton run over the third and fourth quarters that put the Devils ahead 46-35. They’d trailed by a point prior to that run. The Tipton lead was never less than nine points after that.
“We strung together some good defensive rebounding and some good offensive execution,” Dickey said of the run to break over a close game. “Blake Hoover was outstanding really all night long, and especially during that run, and we had some really good coverage in our zone.”
Tipton sealed the game with perfect 11 of 11 shooting from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Mason Degenkolb hit six freebies in the fourth and finished with seven points. Nate Friend added four points for Tipton and Austin Hooker had a deuce to go with five rebounds.
The game was air tight through the third quarter after being tied 22-all at halftime. Similar to Friday night’s victory over Sheridan, the Blue Devils found a way to take control down the stretch.
“We’ve just got a lot of smart kids on our team,” Crawford said. “We’ve played millions of basketball games together. [Eventually], we’ll figure something out and it starts clicking for us. I think we play our best basketball in the second half and it shows in all our wins this year.”
Guard Cameron Bennington led Twin Lakes with 20 points, and forward Cody Deboy added 10 points and a team-best six rebounds.
“It’s a hard place to play and [Twin Lakes] coach [Kent] Adams does a great job with his kids,” Dickey said. “Bennington is a great shooter and posed a serious challenge for our team. That’s why the game was so interesting for so long.”
Dickey said it helped to have an ace in the hole.
“Mike Crawford, once again ... he just solidifies our team,” Dickey said. “He makes the rebounds and sets us up in some good offenses down the stretch, breaks the school record for scoring points. He plays to win. The next better record that we’re going to pay attention to is total wins by an individual player at our school.”