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March 7, 2013

Rematch for Blue Devils, Oracles

High stakes as rivals meet in the opening game of Saturday’s Tipton Regional.

Tipton’s boys basketball team has a 10-game winning streak against Delphi, as the two teams meet every year in the front half of the season. Heading into this season, the previous five matchups hadn’t been close. The Blue Devils had won each of those by 18 points or more.

That changed on Dec. 18 of this season.

That night, Tipton snagged a two-point road victory, 57-55, and got an eyeful of a vastly improved Oracles squad. That change is why Delphi and Tipton will meet again on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Class 2A Tipton Regional.

“I think it gives us confidence that we’re able to play with a team of their caliber,” Delphi coach Michael Lewis said of that first matchup. “It helped us mature throughout the season because they sped us up in the third quarter.”

The Oracles (19-5) progressively learned not to relax in games, not to let others dictate the action, and went on to win the Delphi Sectional for their first postseason hardware since 2003-04. On the other side, Tipton kept motoring through its schedule, amassing a 23-2 record.

Now their paths cross again in the regional opener. Wapahani (21-3) faces Northfield (17-7) in the noon game. The championship is at 8 p.m.

Watching the Blue Devils over three seasons as coach of Delphi, Lewis is impressed with how Tipton keeps cranking out winning teams.

“First of all, they have an unbelievable winning tradition,” Lewis said. “These kids have won their entire careers. They have an all-star-level player in Mike Crawford, who impacts the game so many ways. We really have to have a sense of urgency for 32 minutes.”

The Devil offense flows through Crawford, a 6-5 wing who leads the Tribune area in scoring at 27.3 points per game. Tipton’s offense, especially in transition, starts with quick guards Blake Hoover (10.9 ppg) and Mason Degenkolb (7.7).

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