By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — Though life without star player Carly Clodfelter began over the weekend, Tippecanoe got its first full test Wednesday.
The results, both times, were the same.
Senior Aubrey Cox had a double-double, three Red Devils were in double figures and four others were close as the Tippecanoe girls basketball team used a balanced attack offensively and its typical pressure defensively to put away the Graham Falcons 68-38 Wednesday at Pat Wampler Gymnasium, improving to 4-1 on the season in the process.
Cox finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, nearly putting up a double-double by halftime as Tippecanoe built a 32-11 lead off the strength of 17 forced turnovers before the break. Rachel Rusk added 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench as the Devils substituted liberally throughout the game, and Kelsey Wertz scored eight of her 11 points in the second half.
Taylor Prall and Mikenna Varvel each added nine points off the bench, while Cassidy Wasson and Allison Mader each scored six — all six of Mader’s coming in the second half.
“That’s what it’s going to take,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “We’ve lost almost 50 points per game from last year now in (graduate) Halee Printz’s 18 and seven assists per game, and now Carly is out, too. But we don’t expect any one player to be Carly. We want everyone to get better and collectively pick up the slack.”
Clodfelter, who was averaging 16.3 points per game before Saturday’s Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division opener against bitter rival Kenton Ridge, was in line to break Tippecanoe’s all-time career scoring record this year but will now miss the remainder of the season. She left the game against the Cougars in the second quarter and did not return, scoring eight points in the Devils’ 58-56 win.
“That was big of the girls,” Holderman said. “At that point, we didn’t know what the extent of her injury was. But when we’ve got the amount of seniors and experience coming back that we do, they know what we expect out of them. The girls are learning a new system, too, but they’re responding. We were very encouraged to see them squeak out the win in that Kenton Ridge game.”
And while the Devils struggled from the field early on against the Falcons, going 1 for their first 7 and settling for 3-pointers and long jumpers, once they began scoring in transition off of steals and putting back misses on the offensive glass, it was all over. Tippecanoe scored the game’s first nine points — five on second-chance points and four in transition — and built a 19-4 lead after one quarter.
“We told the girls that we wanted to establish ourselves in the paint first,” Holderman said. “But then they got out there, got a little excited and settled for some long shots at the start. The inside-out look is a good look for us, but we have to establish ourselves inside, especially early, to make life easier on us. Once we did that, we played well.”
The lead grew to 32-11 at the half, but the Falcons (2-2) didn’t give up easily, putting up more points in the third quarter than in the entire first half — yet still falling farther behind at 54-24. Thirteen of Graham’s 27 second-half points came from the free throw line as the Falcons went 14 for 23 in the game, while Tippecanoe was 8 for 18.
“As the lead got bigger, we made some not-so-good decisions,” Holderman said. “We’re trying to focus on being productive on offense and defensively sound on every single possession, and we can’t pick up bad habits when we have a substantial lead. We have to do things right all of the time.”
Still, it was an impressive victory for a team that’s now looking to make a new identity for itself.
“The girls have been responding to the adversity very well,” Holderman said. “We tell them to focus on always doing their best every night, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.”
Hailee Varvel added two points for the Devils, while Taylor Gibson led Graham with eight points and nine rebounds. Kayla Tullis and Kari Smith each scored seven points, with 10 of those 14 coming in the second half.
Tippecanoe faces yet another tough test on Saturday, traveling to undefeated CBC Kenton Trail co-leader Stebbins.
Shawnee Sweeps Tipp
TROY — The Tippecanoe boys and girls bowling teams both lost close matches against Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division rival Springfield Shawnee Wednesday, the boys falling 2,459-2,346 and the girls falling 1,657-1,584.
Charles Jaynes had the high game and series for the boys with a 233 game and 404 series, and Nick Lanham added games of 214 and 194.
Mary Kate Lee led the girls with a 156 game and 293 series, while Ashlyn Herzog added games of 115 and 104.
Tippecanoe will face Miamisburg Tuesday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.