Taylor’s boys basketball team endured a five-game losing streak late in the regular season, but won two of its final three to build some momentum for sectional play. Taylor beat North Miami 58-45 in its regular-season finale last week.
Taylor will take an 8-13 record into the Class 2A Sectional 39 at Tipton. Taylor opens against Elwood (10-11) tonight.
“I think Thursday definitely gave us the confidence we’re looking for heading into the tournament,” Taylor coach Andy Lewman said. “We shot the ball much better than we had shot it in the few games before that. … And getting the win was a big deal in respect to having a head of steam heading into the week. We know if we want to be alive [after] Saturday, we have to play three solid games. But you have to take it one step at a time and Elwood is definitely going to present a challenge.”
No. 7-ranked Tipton (19-3) faces Madison-Grant (11-10) in the 6 p.m. opener today. Taylor and Elwood will follow in the second game, at approximately 7:45 p.m. Eastern drew one of the byes and will face the Taylor-Elwood winner on Friday.
The following are looks at tonight’s games at Tipton along with other early-week games in the area.
Taylor vs. Elwood
Taylor snapped its aforementioned five-game losing streak with a 57-52 victory at Elwood on Feb. 11. The Titans trailed 30-20 at halftime and 37-31 after three quarters, then roared back in the fourth quarter to grab the win.
Taylor was without point guard Justin Wheeler that day. Lewman noted Elwood went without a key player, too.
Elwood is led by wing Korbin Buster, who is a 1,000-point scorer. Buster had a 51-point game against Madison-Grant during the regular season. He had 22 against Taylor in round one.
Lewman noted the Panthers also have a solid post player and another good wing player.
“They have three formidable scorers. We’re going to have to make sure we’re on top of things defensively, contesting things, and also getting things blocked out and rebounded because the post guy goes to the boards really well,” Lewman said.
Taylor is led by guard Challen Hodson (11 points per game), post Damon Stanley (10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds per game), and Wheeler averages 9.4 ppg and 5.2 assists.
Lewman gives his players high marks for the way they have handled adversity. The Titans lost two players to season-ending injuries and two others to attrition during the regular season.
“I look at how much we’ve matured as a team,” he said. “I like to think there’s a chance where it might be our opportunity.”
Tipton vs. Madison-Grant
Tipton won Class 2A sectional and regional titles last season, and it looks ready for another run. The No. 7-ranked Blue Devils posted a pair of strong wins in the final week of the regular season, crushing Cass 64-33, then beating Class 3A then-No. 9 Western 61-52.
“We are coming off some good games to finish out the season,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “Our kids have worked hard to improve their ball handling and offensive plays. We’ve always tried hard defensively. We’re hopeful that we can keep a good package together for the upcoming tournament.”
Tipton takes on Madison-Grant tonight. The teams did not meet in the regular season. They last met in the 1997-98 season.
Dickey noted the Argylls are a solid club.
“We know they have two good, strong players inside and they have a nice point guard and a couple good shooters,” he said. “Our good Howard County-area schedule hopefully has prepared us well for this type of a team and hopefully our kids are focused and ready to get stops and score buckets.”
Tipton scores 60.5 points per game and shoots 46.6 percent from the field and holds opponents to an area-best 47.9 ppg and 40.4 percent shooting.
“I think our defense is still probably ahead of our offense. We’re willing to match up with people aggressively inside and our guards work hard to stay in front of the basketball on the outside,” Dickey said.
Cl. Prairie (7-13) vs. Tri-Central (8-12)
Tri-Central opened 0-7, but has played solid basketball since. The Trojans closed the regular season on a 5-1 run.
“We’re pretty happy with the play we’ve been playing, winning five of our last six. It’s a good thing, getting some momentum going into the tournament that we hope can carry us on into it,” TC coach Kyle Zahn said.
TC is hosting Class A Sectional 54. There is one game tonight — TC vs. Prairie in a clash of Hoosier Heartland Conference squads.
“They’re a team we see quite often with the [Clinton Central] holiday tournament in December and also being a conference opponent,” Zahn said. “They’re a team that can shoot from the outside. Dillon Mang is a quality shooter, one of the best in the sectional, but they’re also a team that can go inside and get some points there.”
TC beat Prairie 53-46 in league play on Feb. 17.
TC will have to play tonight without leading scorer Kolby Thomas. Thomas sustained a concussion in the Trojans’ regular-season finale against Eastern on Friday.
“Everybody has to do a little bit more,” Zahn said. “Kolby is averaging 14 points. Obviously, that is a concern, but I’m really more concerned with his rebounding. He is our leading rebounder right now. That just means everybody needs to block out and prevent them from getting second-chance opportunities.”
Zahn noted Thomas likely could return for Friday’s semifinal round if TC advances.
• The Class 4A sectional at Kokomo’s Memorial Gym begins tonight. In the 6 p.m. opener, Tippecanoe County rivals McCutcheon (5-16) and Harrison (5-16) square off. And, in the nightcap, Marion (9-11) faces Lafayette Jeff (13-7).
Kokomo and Logansport join the fray on Friday. Kokomo plays the McCutcheon-Harrison winner at 6 p.m. with Logan following against the Marion-Jeff winner.
• In the Class 2A sectional at Manchester, Delphi (13-8) and Clinton Central (3-18) will face off in the 6 p.m. opener, and Seeger (10-10) and Carroll (7-14) will meet in the second game.
• The Class 2A sectional at Manchester has one game tonight, Northfield (18-3) vs. North Miami (4-16). There are two games Wednesday, including Cass (9-11) vs. Southwood (4-16) at 6 p.m.