TIPTON — Although it may have lacked a little bit of the glitz and flash that Kokomo fans have become accustomed to this season, the Class 4A No. 8-ranked Wildkats turned in a blue-collar effort to turn back Class 2A No. 11 Tipton, 63-50 Saturday night in front of a packed Tipton gym. Purdue coach Matt Painter was among those in attendance.
With the host team employing a sagging 2-3 zone that often found four players surrounding Kokomo’s All-State big man Flory Bidunga in the paint, Patrick Hardimon made them pay with his inspired effort at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-4 senior picked up where he left off Friday at Muncie Central, tallying 12 first half points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field as Kokomo held a commanding 31-10 advantage at the half.
Despite being blanketed down low, Bidunga quietly had a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards the first 16 minutes. The defensive effort held Tipton to 23% field goal shooting (5 of 22) while Kokomo held a three-to-one (25-8) advantage on the boards.
Shayne Spear kept the offense rolling in the third quarter drilling a pair of shots from behind the arc, with his second three giving Kokomo a 40-17 advantage with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter. The Kats opened their biggest lead at 28 points when Zavion Bellamy canned a 3-pointer from the right wing with just under a minute remaining in the quarter.
Despite trailing by 25 points with just a quarter remaining, Tipton refused to roll over as Nolan Swan caught fire in the final stanza, notching 11 of his game-high 24 points as the Devils closed the game with a 24-12 run to account for the final 13-point margin.
Tipton crept to within 14 points (53-39) when Connor Hussong notched a hoop with 4 minutes remaining. During a Kokomo timeout coach John Peckinpaugh was imploring his troops to finish the game out, stating boldly that it wasn’t over.
Spear responded with a 3-pointer from the baseline, then Bidunga turned in the play of the night, blocking a shot off the backboard defensively then running the floor and following up a missed shot with a thunderous dunk that brought the Kokomo crowd to its collective feet.
“I was really pleased with our play for three quarters,” Peckinpaugh stated. “We played really well until the fourth quarter. That’s something we have to work on, getting mentally mature and playing four quarters.
"Overall I was satisfied with our performance. Flory played well, Shayne hit some big shots and Hardimon played a good game. It was a good team effort but we have to get a bit more mature.”
Bidunga finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. Spear had 15 markers and six rebounds. Hardimon finished with 12 while Bellamy totaled 10 points.
Jackson Money was the only other Tipton player in double figures behind Swan with 12 points.