By MARK SALUKE Kokomo Tribune
---- — ELWOOD — It wasn’t the prettiest at times, but the Tipton boys basketball team’s 43-38 win at Elwood on Tuesday night served as a much-needed bounceback game for the Blue Devils following Saturday’s lopsided 71-41 loss at unbeaten Frankton.
“Our shooting was awful and our play selection was poor,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “But our intensity and energy was fabulous, from the very start. We’d certainly like to shoot better and run a few plays better, but we made a lot of progress.”
Tipton (2-1) looked good out of the gate, riding 50 percent shooting (7 of 14) to an eight-point, 15-7 lead after the first eight minutes.
The Devils went up by 10 on the 2-2 Panthers following a pair of Jon Ross freebies to open the second quarter and again on a Nate Friend basket with 6:10 to play in the half, 19-9, but that’s as big a lead as Tipton would get.
The Devils went ice cold from the field, shooting 4 of 22 in the period as Elwood clawed back in, trailing just 25-21 at the half.
“We were playing about 100 miles per hour defensively, which is great, but then we were also playing above the speed limit on offense, which wasn’t so good,” Dickey said.
Tipton’s shooting woes continued in the third quarter as Mason Degenkolb scored all six of his squad’s points in the period as the Devils shot 22 percent (3 of 14) from the field and still clung to just a four-point lead, 31-27, heading into the final frame.
That’s when things got interesting. Elwood tied the game at 31-all on Griffin Hughes basket at 6:05. The Panthers then took the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter at 33-31 on Dakin Updegraff’s one-and-bonus with 4:24 to play.
Tanner Maxey kept the Blue Devils alive with back-to-back hoops. He knotted the game at 33-all and then put Tipton up by a deuce with 3:36 remaining.
The Panthers tied the game again and took one final lead at 38-37.
Following a Devil timeout, Friend’s bucket provided the final lead change.
Out of an Elwood timeout, Ross picked off a Panthers pass and streaked down court for an easy two. Fouled on the play, Ross converted the freebie for a 42-38 lead with under a minute to play that took the wind out of the Panthers sails.
“Jon made a clean pass challenge, a great play,” Dickey said. “This was a fun basketball game to be a part of, the energy and enthusiasm in this gym was fabulous.”
Friend notched a double-double, leading the Devils in scoring with 12 points and pulling down 10 boards. Ross finished with nine points, while Degenkolb and Maxey each notched eight.
Degenkolb struggled through a 4-of-18 performance on a night that he was well-guarded throughout.
“They were guarding him pretty hard and he never got into a good rhythm,” Dickey said. “But he led us in rebounding and made crucial ball handles in the end.”
Degenkolb finished with 11 rebounds. Brody Dell grabbed 10 boards as the Devils owned a 49-29 command on the glass.
“That’s shocking,” Dickey said. “Coming out of a game where we were literally embarrassed in about every facet of the game, especially rebounding, I’m really excited after a night like this. We were very competitive. This game was a big, big plus for us.”