The Tippecanoe Red Devils girls basketball team finished the first half of the Miami Valley League unscathed, record-wise that is.
The Red Devils players might have felt a few bumps and bruises when they woke up Thursday morning. Tipp held off Butler’s second-half surge – including contesting the Aviators’ final shot with physical defense in the closing seconds – to win 34-29 at Butler’s Student Activity Center on Wednesday.
Tipp improved to 9-4 overall and took control of the MVL’s Miami Division at 9-0. Butler dropped to 9-3 overall and 8-1 in the MVL.
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The Red Devils led by as many as 11 points with 3:20 left in the third quarter on junior Rachel Wildermuth’s offensive rebound. Tipp outscored Butler only 6-5 in the quarter, but benefitted as the Aviators’ struggled to get any shot – both in the paint or from the perimeter – to fall.
Tipp held Butler scoreless until 1:28 remained in the third when sophomore Evan Neely pulled the Aviators within 29-20. Junior Kennedie Lingg capped the quarter with a three-pointer with 28 seconds left to make it 29-23.
Neely opened the fourth with a move in the paint and added a layup from sophomore Olivia Follick’s bounce pass to trim the deficit to 29-27. Butler got as close as 30-29 with 1:03 remaining. Tipp senior Katie Salyer hit a pair of bonus free throws with 18 seconds left and senior Kendall Clodfelter added two more with 2.3 seconds for the final.
Both teams had chances in the final minute with Tipp holding the 30-29 lead. Tipp missed a shot with 50 seconds left. Butler was called for a charge with 39 seconds. Tipp missed a bonus free throw eight seconds later, but mitigated the damage with the rebound.
Butler, trailing 32-29, drove the baseline looking for the shot and foul with about 10 seconds left but Tipp contested the drive and grabbed the loose ball.
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“There’s been some close games throughout,” Tipp coach Andy Holderman said of the first half of the season. “It was important to get this one to start into the second time through the league. … I thought the girls did a great job responding to that situation.”
The Red Devils continued their balanced offense as Wildermuth led Tipp with 10 points, Clodfelter added nine and junior Katie Hemmelgarn seven. Junior Ashleigh Mader and Salyer scored four points each. Clodfelter leads the team with 11.2 points per game.
“Consistency is where we’re lacking,” Holderman said of an offensive drought here or defensive lapse there during a game. “But the good thing is we have four or five players capable of putting up 15 points in a night. That’s been the trend throughout. It’s a different leading scorer each game. … It’s everybody doing their part.”
Neely led Butler with 14 points, including all six of her team’s fourth-quarter points. Lingg added five.
“We’re young and we’re coming around,” Butler coach Molly Bardonaro said. “We knew this was going to be a test of what we’re made or what we can do. I thought we did some things really well. Ultimately, we should have won that game.”
Butler missed out on several rebounds – or taking advantage of the ones they did get — especially in the second half. Butler missed a bonus free throw with 2:44 left in the game. The Aviators grabbed the rebound but missed the shot, then gathered in the loose ball only to lose it out of bounds.
By Bardonaro’s count her team missed about eight layups.
“To beat good teams like Tipp City we can’t let that happen,” said Bardonaro, whose team closes the regular season at Tipp on Feb. 8.
“We have to focus on this next round of league play. There’s no room to get overly anxious to play them again. We have to do well to keep us at the top of the league.”
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