Nolan Swan 2022-23

Nolan Swan

Tipton junior sharpshooter Nolan Swan turned in a nearly perfect second half to break open a tight game and propel the Blue Devils to a convincing 58-40 victory over Taylor in the title game of the Class 2A Taylor Sectional on Saturday night at Center Court.

In a nip-and-tuck first half, which saw the lead change hands seven times, a stifling Taylor defense had held Swan scoreless until he converted on a hoop-and-harm 3-point play to put Tipton up 14-13 with 3:47 remaining in the half. Two minutes later, he canned a 3-pointer to give Tipton a 17-16 halftime advantage.

The late 3 by Swan was merely a harbinger of things to come.

Just 45 seconds into the third quarter Swan canned another 3, followed it up 40 seconds later with a driving layup, then canned yet another 3 with 6:01 remaining in the quarter to stretch the advantage to 25-17. Not satisfied, Swan buried two more triples within 30 seconds of one another for a 14-point quarter that saw Tipton scoot out to a 42-28 cushion.

“In the early going Taylor’s press prevented us from getting into a lot of our sets,” said Tipton coach Cliff Hawkins. “Once we started breaking the press we knew we could get some good looks. We have five different options we can run off our half-court set so we just started mixing that up and Nolan knocked down the shots.”

Taylor coach Bob Wonnell rubbed his head looking over the scorebook and seeing the damage Swan inflicted in the second half.

“He’s a great ballplayer,” Wonnell said. “We played good defense on him, but just one small breakdown is all he needs. When he gets going like that, he’s hard to stop.”

Tipton (18-6) continued its strong second half in the final quarter, opening its biggest lead (19) on a hoop by Grady Carpenter to make it 49-30 with just under five minutes remaining. The never-say-die Titans didn’t go down without a fight though, narrowing the gap to 52-40 with two minutes left following six points from Mekhi McGee and a bucket by Jay Patterson.

“You have to give all the teams in this sectional credit,” said Hawkins while watching his squad pose for photos with the sectional championship trophy. “Taylor never quit [Saturday] and they have a good thing going for them. They are a talented group of kids and are well coached.

“We are proud to win back-to-back sectionals knowing that we had a target on our backs coming into the sectional. Last year we couldn’t get out of the regional so this year we’re going to work hard to take this program to the next level.”

Swan finished with a game-high 28 points. Connor Hussong had 14 points and Carpenter was also in double figures with 11 points.

Tipton advances to play No. 3-ranked Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (23-3) in a one-game regional at 4 p.m. Saturday at Lapel.

McGee led the Titans (19-6) with 18 points in his high school finale.

Taylor also graduates Patterson, Cody Groves, Misaiah Bebley and Kaiden Blane. They led the Titans to one of the best seasons in school history.

“I love this team and their heart,” an emotional Wonnell said. “The seniors were great with the way they welcomed me and my family in when there are a lot of kids who wouldn’t have accepted a new coach and philosophy, but that group really did and that speaks volumes to their character.

“Now with the young guys we have, we are going to work hard and try to build this program up like Cliff has at Tipton. We are in the conversation of being close, but our goal is to not be close but have a program that year in and year out is competitive and other teams know it’s going to be a tough game when they play us.”

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