LOGANSPORT — With 5:47 left in the Class 2A Girls Basketball North Semistate, North Judson star Lilliann Frasure hit an 18-foot jumper to trim Tipton’s lead to just three points, 39-36.
Tipton had led wire-to-wire at that point, having scored on the first possession of the game, but the Blue Devils had been challenged every step of the way. With a trip to the state championship game on the line, Tipton had to answer.
The Blue Devils didn’t just answer, they unloaded.
Tipton freshman gunner Hallie Wolfe drilled a 27-foot triple with 5:00 left to push the lead back out to six points and the Blue Devils had all the answers after that. North Judson didn’t score again and Tipton tore off a 15-0 run to finish off a 54-36 victory and earn a trip to the Class 2A state title game on Friday.
“This is amazing. This is an experience I’ve never, ever experienced,” Tipton guard Ella Wolfe said just a few minutes after the Blue Devils wrapped up the win. “It’s a dream come true. Ever since I was a little girl, this was my dream to go to state. It’s just an overwhelming of emotions.”
Unranked Tipton (20-7) faces top-ranked Linton-Stockton (26-1) in the Blue Devils’ first trip to the state finals Friday night at 7 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Ella Wolfe led a balanced Tipton attack with 14 points. Post player Ashlee Schram had 12 points and a whopping 16 rebounds. Guard Abigail Parker scored 11, and Hallie Wolfe scored 10 off the bench. Tipton committed 17 turnovers to North Judson’s 11, but was more efficient offensively and defensively than the Bluejays.
“When you’re playing teams as good as North Judson, they’re going to create havoc too, so it’s about execution in the really crucial plays and I felt like we had a few crucial plays that we executed, and that was the difference in the game,” Tipton coach Chad Wetz said.
Any moment in particular?
“Hallie Wolfe’s 3, when they cut it to 3 or 4 [points], turned the game,” Wetz said. “We’ve given her green light all year. Now she has the confidence to step up and hit it. We emotionally fed off that shot and put them away.”
Tipton rode that emotional high of energy. At the 4:08 mark, Tipton snagged a turnover on the defensive end and found Ella Wolfe on the attacking end for a fast break hoop and harm with 4:08 left to push the lead out to 45-36. With the lead at nine points, Tipton could try to work clock and NJ had to foul. The Blue Devils made 9 of 11 free throws in the final 2:35 to seal the win.
They’d held their nerve through a tense game. At the end, it was time to uncork all those emotions.
Schram said at the end, she celebrated by “hugging all my teammates and coaches, knowing we finally accomplished what we set out to do at the beginning of the season, and just a feeling of relief that we’re finally where we want to be. We proved to the people in this gym that we’re the best team here.
“I think by the look on all of our faces, by the tears in our eyes and smiles, we definitely accomplished our goals here.”
Tipton hit 14 of 33 shots from the field and 13 of 19 free throws. North Judson hit just 16 of 55 shots and was 0 of 5 from the line, with all five freebie misses coming from Olivia Burkett. Lillian Frasure ended up with a team-high 16 points for North Judson. Burkett scored eight. Sophia Frasure was held to just three points.
“We focused on defense today,” Schram said. “30 and 32 [Sophia and Lilliann Frasure] are really good shooters and we decided that we weren’t going to let them dictate the game, and we decided that we were going to control the game, and our defense was going to control the game.”
Lilliann Frasure was 7 of 16 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3-point land. Sophia Frasure was 1 of 8, 1 of 7 from 3-land.
“We wanted to take the sister duo away,” Wetz said. “We didn’t always get it done because they’re legit, but we wanted to make every shot they took contested and out of their rhythm. Our coaching staff did a great job preparing the team to know what they were gonna do.”
Tipton spread scoring responsibilities around. Olivia Spidel gave Tipon the lead on its first possession of the game with a 3-pointer for her only field goal of the game. Parker had two 3s in the quarter, Ella Wolfe one, and Schram went to work inside. Schram scored six points in the first quarter and had 10 by halftime. Six of her points in the first half came off offensive rebounds.
“Schramme’s a double-double machine and when she owns the glass, we’re that much better,” Wetz said. “Our backcourt of Parker and Ella Wolfe dominated early and it was a complete team win.”
Tipton led 18-14 after a quarter, 33-25 at the half and 38-34 after three quarters.
“It was important for us to get ahead and stay ahead,” Schram said. “Usually when we get down, we get down on ourselves and try to force shots. When we got the lead we knew we were in control and we just dictated the game.”
Tipton scored just five points in the third quarter but held the lead with big buckets from the Wolfe sisters. Ella Wolfe had a transition hoop to push the lead to eight at 35-27. Then after a five-point swing for NJ, Hallie Wolfe hit a 3-pointer one possession after missing a shot from 3-land to put Tipton up six, 38-32.
“They were amazing,” Ella Wolfe said of her sister’s critical second-half treys. “She can shoot light’s out and we have constantly been on her to keep shooting, and I’m so proud of her.”
North Judson made it hard for Tipton to get into an offensive flow in the second half, but the Blue Devils responded with big buckets from guards to maintain their lead.
"When we slowed down a little bit it was very hard to get in the lane to get to Ashlee," Ella Wolfe said. "We just had to work around that."
Schram said experiences throughout the season allowed the Blue Devils to survive a tough semistate game.
“We definitely learned from our mistakes,” Schram said. “We lost some games by less than five points, like [to] Frankton and Clinton Prairie, and then when we knew they were in our regional we came back for revenge. Losing to good teams prepared us for bigger games like this for not stressing out, we’re just doing what we do.”