By Gary Gregory
SPRINGFIELD — Tippecanoe had its hands full Saturday against No. 11 Meadowdale in the Division II sectional opener at Springfield High School
In a tightly-contested, low-scoring game, the second-seeded Red Devils — who trailed by four points late in the third period — mounted a 16-6 second-half run on their way to a 38-33 sectional victory.
Knotted at 14-14 at halftime, each team tallied only five buckets and four free throws. Shooting woes plagued both squads. The Red Devils hit 5 of 14 field goal attempts, while the Lions connected on 5 of 16..
Tipp trailed 19-14 midway in the third quarter when the Lions scored two buckets and a free throw to open the quarter for a five-point lead. However, Tipp’s leading scorer Ben Stucke got hot at the right time, scoring six points in less than two minutes left in the third period for a 22-20 lead.
Sean Ford came off the bench in the second half and tallied nine points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished off three assists.
“Stucke and Sean Ford both played like seniors are supposed to play,” Tippecanoe coach Marcus Bixler said.
Early on, Bixler said Tipp had trouble “finding its rhythm.”
“Meadowdale is very quick, very athletic and they can cause some havoc out there,” he said. “But we got a little more aggressive when it counted, and I was real pleased with our defense overall.”
For example, leading Lion scorer Xavier Gullatt (18.5 points per game) was held to 10 points.
Stucke, who scored a game-high 17 points, hit a trey and a mid-range shot from the left corner. He added a free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play that gave Tipp a 20-19 advantage.
“We were able to gain the momentum at that point,” Stucke said.
Ford hit a baseline jumper at 3:45 for a 30-24. Ford hit five free throws and Stucke hit five in the final two minutes. Ford also tallied seven rebounds and three assists and Stucke had seven rebounds as well.
When the Lions were forced to foul in the closing minutes, but they fouled two high-percentage shooters. Stucke hit four of six free throws and Ford hit five of seven.
The nine shots from the charity stripe gave Tipp a 38-27 advantage in the final minute. The Lions connected on two treys in the final minute to make the final score a bit closer.
Tippecanoe improved to 17-6 while Meadowdale finished the season at 7-15.
The Red Devils are slated to play Ben Logan at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Springfield.
“Ben Logan (10-12) throws all kinds of defenses at you, so we have to be ready,” Bixler said.
The Tippecanoe-Ben Logan winner will advance to the sectional final on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.