Girls basketball: Tipp, Carroll advance to set up sectional showdown

Carroll senior forward Megan Leraas shoots from the lane during the Patriots' 56-25 sectional victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night at Tecumseh High School.  Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Carroll senior forward Megan Leraas shoots from the lane during the Patriots' 56-25 sectional victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night at Tecumseh High School. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

NEW CARLISLE – Listen closely, and you will hear Tippecanoe girls basketball players say to each other: “One more … one more.”

The one more means one more pass. The mantra and selfless play that defines the state’s fifth-ranked Division II team began in an early-season drill directed by junior varsity coach Kaci Matthews.

“Everybody had to say, ‘One more’ before they made the pass, and that’s stuck all season,” said first-year head coach Christina Pentaudi. “I emphasize to them that we want to get the best shot that we can.”

One more takes on another meaning at tournament time when the goal is to win one more, then one more and so on. The 22-0 and top-seeded Red Devils took one more step Wednesday night with a 66-15 victory over sixth-seeded Kenton Ridge (10-11) in a sectional semifinal at Tecumseh High School.

The next one-more will be far more difficult. The opponent is second-seeded Carroll (16-4), a 56-25 winner over eighth-seeded Northwestern (7-15). Carroll is an experienced team that reached the state final four the past two years and played in the final in 2019.

“It will be a really fun sectional game,” Pentaudi said. “It will be really competitive. It will be a good challenge to see what we can really do, especially outside of our conference.”

A trip to the district tournament on Friday, Feb. 26, at Mason High School is at stake. Tipp has played in seven straight district finals, and Carroll has won three district titles in the past four years.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Carroll junior guard Sarah Ochs. “It’s the type of game we all play basketball for. We’ve been preparing really hard for them, and I think it’s going to be a really good matchup.”

Tipp has a bit of a size advantage, but otherwise the two teams have much in common. One more pass could just as easily be a slogan for the Patriots.

“We always try to focus on team play, the extra pass, get the person open,” Carroll coach Cecilia Grosselin said.

Carroll jumped to a 9-0 lead on Northwestern and didn’t slow down. Ochs scored 20 points and backcourt mate Ava Lickliter had 12. The Patriots made eight 3-pointers.

“They did some stuff to the zone that teams hadn’t done all year and got some open looks and buried them,” said Northwestern coach Geoff Springer, who was the head coach at Wayne from 2004-13. “That’s an experienced team.”

Tipp had a similar start behind senior guard Ashleigh Mader. She made three 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 18 points. Maddi Moran added 11 off the bench.

Pentaudi said Mader’s court vision, passing and vocal leadership have elevated the play of her teammates. Mader averages 13.4 points a game, knows every position for every play and studies a lot of game film.

“Her basketball IQ, she’s really developed that,” Pentaudi said. “She’s done a lot of that on her own, with outside AAU coaches. With this being my first year, I can’t take any of that credit for what she’s developed.”

Northwestern started two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman and had only one practice to prepare for the Patriots because of late-season makeup games and snow days.

“They weren’t fazed by it because they’re unfamiliar with their history,” Springer said. “I knew how good Carroll was, but they didn’t know how good Carroll was.”

The Covid-19 interruptions of the season were particularly difficult for young and inexperienced teams like Northwestern. The Warriors had two three-week shutdowns and missed 60-70 hours of practice.

“We’ll take it as a learning experience, and then come back next year and hopefully be in a better position,” Springer said.

Kenton Ridge second-year coach Duncan Thomas, who has also been head coach at Springfield, Dunbar, Yellow Springs and Northmont, sees in Tipp what he wants to build from middle school up in his program.

“They play together, and I’m sure they’ve been playing together for a while,” Thomas said. “I’m a firm believer in AAU basketball is great for girls. I’m sure half that team plays AAU basketball. You can tell by the skill set. We’re not there yet.”

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